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Queenstown chef champions New Zealand seafood

Thursday 13 October 2016

Sai Raje

New Zealand seafood is best in the world, sustainable and something to be very proud of, according to acclaimed Queenstown chef Darren Lovell of Fishbone Bar and Grill.

It is this diverse variety of fresh seafood that Lovell loves dishing up at Fishbone, where he is chef, gardener, chicken keeper and owner. Fishbone was awarded a One Hat Rating in the 2016 Cuisine Good Food Awards announced in early August.

Chef Darren Lovell

Chefs Hats are awarded for outstanding restaurants and range from one hat through to three hats. Fishbone will feature in the Cuisine Good Food Guide to be released in September.

“Our fishermen are our secret to success.

"We have access to the freshest seafood in the world.

"New Zealand has the best seafood in the world. And it is sustainable,” Lovell says.

"We should be so proud."

Lovell and his business partner Mark Godden bought Fishbone in May this year. They wanted a restaurant that told the story of what it was like to grow up in the South Island of New Zealand.

“And growing up here means fishing and collecting seafood, whether it’s wriggling for clams with your toes, diving for crayfish or spending a Saturday morning floundering.”

Lovell, was born in the United Kingdom, and raised in Australia close to the coast. He spent every bit of free time he had fishing and caught his first fish – a flounder – when he was four.

His favourite seafood memory is catching fish on the beach with his mates from school, lighting little fires made of drift wood, and cooking the fish then and there on the beach.

“Magic. I would love a wood fired grill at Fishbone.

“I love the challenge of sourcing fresh seafood and then making interesting dishes that complement the subtle almost elusive flavour of fish,” he says.

Fishbone’s menu changes daily to make the best of the fresh catch. But there are firm favourites that often find a place on the menu such as fish in crazy water (a traditional Italian dish with a whole fish poached in tomatoes, chili and herbs), when cherry tomatoes are bursting with flavour during summer.


A popular Fishbone dish - fish in crazy water (whole fish poached in tomatoes, chilli and herbs)

Despite the late nights running his restaurant, Lovell speaks to his suppliers in Bluff, Greymouth, Motueka, or Port Chalmers as early as 6am about the day’s catch and what is being fished later that week. With the exception of North Island sardines, all of Fishbone’s seafood is sourced from the South Island, caught using a variety of methods.

“We have our favourites - groper, blue nose, flat fish, gurnard, blue cod, monkfish and now, of course orange roughy.

“We try and offer as much variety as we can (brill, sardines, turbot, flounder) apart from showcasing the big, popular ones.

“It wasn’t until I bought Fishbone with Mark that I started cooking fish. We laugh because now I couldn’t consider cooking anything else, Lovell says.

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