Since 1963 Matterhorn has been a cornerstone of Wellington’s hospitality scene. The Cuba Street institution has gone from a magnet for misfits and musicians in the swinging ‘60s, to a daytime café, then a Greek restaurant in the ‘90s. More recently it’s been synonymous with high-quality dining, cocktails and live beats. Accolades include rave reviews from style bibles such as Wallpaper, the Cuisine Restaurant of the Year in 2008, a host to top chefs and a regular in top food guides.
Although the restaurant’s up for re-development in two years, new owner Mark Keddell (formerly Pack & Company) has taken back the helm and brought back its most successful executive chef Sean Marshall and bar manager Riki Carter. “If the Matterhorn is going in a couple of years, it has to go out with a bang,” Keddell says. “We’re going to take the restaurant back to the heights it enjoyed.”
Marshall, who headed up Matterhorn’s kitchen for five years until 2011, has reintroduced his signature flair for memorable a la carte dishes using humble ingredients. (Most recently he was executive chef of The Imperial and Libertine in Auckland and prior to that clocked up a stellar career at numerous Michelin star restaurants overseas.) Head chef is Rob Mayback, from Auckland’s fine dining restaurant The Roxy.
“Putting a new menu together is like making a music album, you’ve got to strike the right balance between the hits and your new stuff,” says Marshall. “We’re bringing back a rendition of the fish soup which won Metro’s Dish of the Year in 2012, and the wild rabbit with carrot and cardamom entrée that I’ve done a hundred different ways but always love. I’m also doing away with shared plates – they’re bloody everywhere. It’ll be entrees, mains and desserts, with a raw section up front and some beautiful house-matured cheeses to finish.”
Carter led Matterhorn as one of the world’s top 50 Bars in Drinks International magazine in 2009 (among many other awards), and renowned sommelier Gary Olasz is on board to curate the wine list. Keddell and Marshall have also taken over former Pack & Company properties Snapdragon, Libertine and The Crown (now the White Rabbit) in Auckland.
Although a new menu and a re-loved interior have been revealed, the venue’s formula of great gigs, indoor and outdoor flow, fireside, cocktail bar and day café is set to stay.
“Matterhorn has a history that must be preserved,” says Keddell. “The restaurant is Wellington public property and we are purely custodians, looking after it for the people. I’m going to do everything I can to keep it here.”