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6 Waiheke Weekender
Peter Leenstra is the consummate hospitality professional, as
comfortable in the kitchen of a fne dining restaurant as he is today
with his own gourmet fsh and chippery on beautiful Palm Beach.
In the champagne-swilling era of the mid eighties, where corpo-
rates lunched a lot – or as Peter calls them, “the bad old days”
– there were a few Auckland establishments that really stood out;
Verandah Bar and Grill (VBG), Metro, Cin Cin and of course Totos
Italian Restaurant, especially if your were dining with television
executives. Peter spent this time working at VBG, alternating
between sweating over a stove in the kitchen and lavishing regulars
with nouvelle cuisine and some pretty slick
service out front.
He says he is naturally drawn to fne
dining and likens it to brilliant theatre. An
atmosphere which, he says, is highly addic-
tive, seeing the best and worst of people,
staff and customers alike.
While he boasts no formal training,
Peter has developed his own style and
confdence after years spent in kitchens
with some outstanding chefs, including
Christine Manfeld – a highly regarded
Australian chef, author, and food writer.
Her current Sydney restaurant, Universal,
offers an á la carte menu inspired by the
favours of the world through Christine’s
extensive global travels, with distinctive
and defnitive favour combinations. It was nominated
as one of the world’s 10 best new restaurants at the
2008 Food and Wine Awards in New York.
Back in New Zealand, Peter purchased a share in a
house on Goodwin Avenue in Little Oneroa in 1995,
hoping to dabble in making pottery and take a well
deserved break from the hospitality industry. He subse-
quently met his wife Sandra, sold his share and bought
again, just up the road. 17 years on and he is into his
third house and still on the same street.
Peter returned to his trade in style, spending seven
years at Mudbrick restaurant as both dining room
manager and working his way through the ranks in the
kitchen to senior chef de partie.
From there, he went behind the bar at SandBar in
Oneroa in its early years, where he worked on broaden-
ing further his knowledge of fne wine.
He was also intricately involved in the set up of both
the Skinny Sardine and the Palm Beach Clubhouse
restaurants and when asked if he prefers setting up new
restaurants to the day-to-day service of a long-estab-
lished eatery, he smiles as he answers. “It just happens
to unfold that way. There are always
bars, cafes and restaurants opening
and closing their doors… just look
around any city, and Waiheke is
certainly no different.”
The opportunity arose two years
ago to own his own business and
with fond childhood memories of
our national takeaway, he aspires
to deliver good, old fashioned
quality fsh and chips from his fsh
and chippery in Palm Beach. He
has already achieved a favourable
reputation amongst the locals and
reckons he has a “pretty nice spot”
for his offce.
Peter is passionate about his food and these days enjoys cooking
for friends at dinner parties, fnding it a lot more enjoyable now he
is not also spending hours prepping and cooking in a commercial
kitchen. He believes that you have to care about what you create
and recommends cooking hungry so you can savour the dish and
produce something you really want to eat yourself.
Today he shares one of his favourite restaurant-style dishes for
readers to recreate at home.
“This is a very easy recipe that is dependent only on the qual-
ity of the lamb rack and your ability to cook it to your preferred
degree,” says Peter.
Pomegranate and peppercorn lamb rack
1 (preferably export quality) lamb rack per person
Pink peppercorns (the pickled kind that come in a glass jar in
Oil for frying
1 garlic clove, peeled
A sprig of fresh thyme
Pre-heat the oven to about 200º Celsius.
Take your lamb rack out of the fridge while this is happening to get
rid of some of the fridge chill. Drain about one heaped tablespoon
of the peppercorns per lamb rack
– chop them up a little to release
more favour and stop them rolling
around too much.When your oven
is hot, put your frying pan on the
hottest burner to begin heating up.
While that is happening, season
your lamb racks with salt. If you
are using fakey sea salt (as I do)
don’t be shy with it – one of the
main differences between home
cooked meals and restaurant food
is the level of seasoning.
When your pan is hot – and I mean
really hot – pour in a couple of
tablespoons of cooking oil (I prefer rice bran oil for frying). The oil
should run around the pan easily after a couple of seconds.
Leave it until it is hot; you can see a ribbed, wave pattern in the
Peter Leenstra: "There are always bars, cafes and
restaurants opening and closing their doors... just look
around any city, and Waiheke is certainly no different."
The quiet gentleman
Peter Leenstra is the owner Palm Beach Fish and
Chips, where he aims to serve up a delicious, old-
fashioned version of our national takeaway.
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