Stars align for Saffron sell-up

Out of the kitchen: Saffron chef and owner Pete Gawron

Three Arrowtown hospitality hotspots have been bought by a company including prominent caterer Flying Trestles and mega-jeweller Sir Michael Hill.

They’re taking over Saffron and Agave restaurants and The Blue Door bar on March 31.

Partners Melanie Hill and Pete Gawron, who opened Saffron during the 1999 Queenstown flood, have played a huge role in developing Arrowtown as a classy dining destination.

Gawron – who’s authored two Saffron cookbooks – is well-known for his zest for seasonal produce, some of which he forages for himself, and his support for Central Otago wines.

Hill, no relation of Sir Michael, says they’re selling because “it’s time to take a long, long holiday”, adding they’re “absolutely delighted” that it’s staying in local hands.

The new shareholders include Flying Trestles Catering Ltd, owned by Arrowtowners Vicky and Dave Arnold, who first bought into it five years ago, and Vicky’s father Nick Piper, who lives nearby.

Originated in the 1980s, the mobile catering company has a big reputation for its work on film sets.

It’s dished up cuisine to stars like Tom Cruise, Hugh Jackman and Orlando Bloom on shoots including The Piano, The Lord of the Rings and King Kong

The other shareholders are Arrowtown jeweller Sir Michael Hill and his family and Queenstowner John Watson.

Piper, who plays golf with Hill on his private course, says buying the three outlets “fits in with Flying Trestles and with food”.

“We’ll make a few changes but we’re still deciding what we’re going to do.”

Piper, whose favourite watering hole is The Blue Door, also hopes that Gawron and Melanie Hill will continue to have some involvement.

Sir Michael Hill says he’s delighted to be partnering the Arnolds, saying they’ve taken Flying Trestles “from strength to strength”.

After the disastrous 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami, Mountain Scene ran a photo of Hill in Saffron’s kitchen, dressed as a chef for a charity dinner which raised almost $30,000.

Doing their bit: (From left) Sir Michael Hill, John Read and John Martin in 2005
Doing their bit: (From left) Sir Michael Hill, John Read and John Martin in 2005