Tractor factor wins out in foodie fare

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Man-of-the-land fare has triumphed over townie sophistication in one of Arrowtown’s best-known foodie locations.

Tractor-driving Graeme Finnie surprised restaurateur Varick Neilson and wife Jenny Graham by rolling up in his 1956 Massey Ferguson 35 at the relaunch of their Arrowtown restaurant last Saturday.

The couple, who took over The Postmaster’s House early this year, have renamed it Red Tractor Cafe and thrown out the fine-dining menu in favour of pizza and pasta.

“As a joke I offered free dinner for anyone turning up in a red tractor and, lo and behold, five minutes before we opened someone did,” Neilson says.

Finnie, who calls himself “a wee bit of a Ferguson nut”, lives only 100 metres along the road.

Neilson says his previous menu was too upmarket for locals: “Business owners who want to survive the recession have to change with the times.”

After making a name as a fine-dining chef, Neilson says he’s come full circle – his first kitchen experience was making pizza and pasta when Queenstown’s The Cow opened 32 years ago.

Based in a historic 1907 building, the former Postmaster’s House Restaurant opened six years ago.