Taste of ‘Polynasia’ at Blue Kanu restaurant in Queenstown

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Experienced Queenstown restaurateurs Karen and Grant Hattaway are pioneering a new ethnic combination in their latest CBD venture.

The business partners are bringing Pacific and Asian food and decor together for their Blue Kanu restaurant.

It opens next week in Church Street premises formerly occupied by French restaurant Les Alpes.

The Hattaways, who operate Pier 19 and Steamer Wharf restaurants, a hospitality consultancy and a catering firm, say Blue Kanu is a totally different concept.

“We came up with a buzz word, ‘Polynasia’ – we tried to google it and kept getting told it’s a spelling mistake,” Karen says.

“Grant and I are both part-Maori, we love the Pacific, and of course the original Polynesians travelled from Asian countries.

“Yes, you can get our beautiful lakes and mountains here but our culture’s really unique and I think it’s time to celebrate it.”

While foreign nationals staff most local restaurants and bars, Kiwis will predominate at Blue Kanu, Grant says.

“If you went all the way to Kenya and you got served by a Swiss, you’d feel as though it maybe isn’t the most authentic experience.”

Included in the ‘Polynasia’-inspired fitout is a stage for open-mic performances, with a blue guitar on hand.

Karen, a polished singer herself, says: “We’re encouraging our guests and staff to get up and play because I’m certainly going to.”

The Hattaways were attracted to the site because it’s in a developing food precinct.

The proposed Skyline Enterprises development on the opposite corner will help, they say.

Blue Kanu will seat 75 inside with table, booth and bench seating, and 30 outdoors in the summer.

They’ve obtained a precedent-setting resource consent to put seating on the footpath to provide lake views for diners.

Grant, local branch president of the Restaurant Association, believes the ingredients for success in his industry are a good site, fresh concept, value for money and delivering on the experience.

Karen adds: “Know your market and work hard.”

Two years ago, local Colliers International property valuer Andrew Hyndman speculated that increasing rents meant the days of prime-site ground-floor restaurants in the CBD may be over.

Grant: “It would be a sad day if rents got to a stage where a la carte dining in prime spots wasn’t viable because we bring a lot of people into the area.

“Landlords probably need to take a responsible approach and realise that there’s got to be some meat left on the bone for everyone.”