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By TRACEY ROXBURGH

As a Queenstown eatery prepares to go up against 11 others, New Zealand-wide, in the 2020 Great NZ Toastie Takeover, it’s also preparing to pop up in the CBD.

Love Chicken, which serves free-range, organic Bostock’s chicken, opened at Queenstown
Central last March.

It’s just been named a finalist in the national toastie comp for its three cheese mac and cheese, Southern-style fried organic free-range chicken and McClure’s sweet and spicy pickle creation, dreamed up by co-owners Darren Lovell and Kareem Harvey.

The only other lower South finalist is Dunedin’s Hungry Hobb’s for its meatloaf, mashed
potato and gravy, pickles and aged cheddar cheese toastie.

The winner’s to be announced on September 3, by which time Love Chicken will be open in
Beach Street, occupying the space currently home to Fishbone.

Lovell also owns Fishbone, and says after being in business 29 years the seafood restaurant
‘‘needs a holiday’’.

‘‘So, it’s going fishing, probably till the summer of 2021.’’

Because international visitors make up about 75 per cent of Fishbone’s clientele, without them the restaurant’s struggled to keep its promise of ‘‘the freshest seafood in the area’’.

‘‘We can’t keep that promise at the moment because we just don’t have enough customers.

‘‘So, we thought we could pop up Love Chicken.’’

Lovell and Harvey plan to close Fishbone’s doors this Sunday, and then open the pop-up on August 26.

Initially it’ll be open from 11.30am till late at Beach St.

Punters can order food at the counter, then enjoy table service, including wine and beer, if they want to dine in.

They’re planning on opening for breakfast as the days get a bit longer — offerings then will
include chicken and waffles and chicken and biscuits, an American staple, similar to a scone (‘‘When you’re partner’s an American, you don’t have much choice’’, Lovell says.)

The pop-up also means they can keep as many staff from Fishbone employed as possible.

‘‘Otherwise we were going to have to make positions redundant, and I really didn’t want to do that.

‘‘There are a lot of loyal staff at Fishbone and they’ve been with me a long time and I want to keep them.

‘‘This is a way to make that happen.’’

While he’s sad to have to put Fishbone into hibernation, it ‘‘will be back’’.

‘‘It’s iconic in Queenstown — we need somewhere in this town that celebrates NZ seafood the way Fishbone does.’’

Meantime, the menu at both Love Chickens will feature the ‘‘epic’’ toastie permanently, given it’s gained a ‘‘cult following’’ since the competition launched at the beginning of July.

And the pair are keeping their fingers crossed they can claim the national toastie crown.

‘‘We want to bring home the trophy for Queenstown.’’

tracey.roxburgh@scene.co.nz