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Queenstown’s Wai fine-dining restaurant embraces new lease of life

September 13, 2013 Lifestyle No Comments Email Email

Almost 12 years to the day since it first opened its doors to diners, Wai Restaurant will close this week marking the end of an era and the start of a fresh, new addition to the Queenstown dining scene.
Widely acknowledged as one of New Zealand’s finest dining establishments, Wai will serve its last customers this Saturday September 14 2013 before undertaking a new lease of life including new concept, menu and name.

Co-owners (L-R) Alex Boyes, Jan Rae, Martin and Megan James

Co-owners (L-R) Alex Boyes, Jan Rae, Martin and Megan James

The new restaurant will continue to be owned and operated by Alex Boyes, Jan Rae and Martin and Megan James offering “real, honest cooking” designed to be shared with family and friends.

Wai is one of the country’s most awarded fine dining restaurants and for the last 12 years has provided diners from across the globe with the ultimate waterfront dining experience, winning numerous awards during that time including finalist in the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year awards for the past three years.

In its picture perfect location on the shores of Lake Wakatipu, Wai will be transformed into a new eatery based on “humble, handcrafted comfort food” and with an emphasis on ‘social dining’.

Speaking on behalf of the owners, Alex Boyes said the decision to close Wai in its current format had been “a tough decision, but the right one”.

Wai Restaurant on Steamers Wharf

Wai Restaurant on Steamers Wharf

“After so many great years offering the best food, in the best location, we decided we wanted a change,” said Mr Boyes.

“We’ve had the new concept idea for a while now; we’ve just been waiting for the right time. The location is perfect for the new concept and so we decided to move ahead in time for summer.”

The yet-to-be-named new restaurant will open in early November and will and the new menu will be unveiled nearer the time.

“People’s attitude to food has changed over the years and we’re committed to Queenstown’s thriving restaurant scene, ensuring we provide our guests with the perfect dining experience,” said Mr Boyes.

“These days it’s more about sitting around a table and having a social, integrated dining experience, where the food speaks for itself.”

Diners will be pleased to know the restaurant’s current award-winning staff and chef team will remain.

Wai Restaurant outside dining area with the stunning lake views

Wai Restaurant outside dining area with the stunning lake views

Renowned chef and co-owner Martin James will remain at the helm of the new restaurant as executive chef and will continue to work alongside head chef Stephen Clayton, who’s been with the Wai Dining Group for 11 years.

“This no-fuss style of cooking enables us to offer the best seasonal produce, caught on our doorstep, hunted in our hills or foraged from our farms, all served in a relaxed setting,” said Mr James.

“Stephen and I are excited about returning to this ‘grass roots’ style of cooking which really epitomizes the personalities of myself and the other owners.”

Plans for the new restaurant include expanding the bar area to encourage locals and visitors to “pop-in for some shared bites, a glass of Central Otago wine or a boutique beer”.

“With our enviable waterfront location, we’re the perfect spot for a drink and nibbles pre-dinner or after work, so we wanted to encourage that side of the dining experience,” said Mr Boyes.

“Steamer Wharf is well-known as one of Queenstown’s best dining destinations and we’ll simply add something fresh and exciting to the already strong offering.”

The new concept has been compared to one of the owners’ other restaurants, Bella Cucina, a firm favourite with locals and visitors.

“At Bella we pride ourselves on offering superb, simple Italian home cuisine, cooked fresh daily, with great service. Our new restaurant will have that same relaxed ambience but with a local Kiwi vibe,” said Mr Boyes.

“We’re just taking Queenstown’s best restaurant, best location, best chef and best staff and making it even better.”

Wai Dining Group also owns and operates Queenstown restaurant Finz Seafood & Grill and the Post Office Café.

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