I first met Matt Bouterey when he and his wife Tania opened a restaurant in the Abbey complex on the Appleby Straight. Enjoying exceptional food in the rustic Abbey environment was a mixed experience; the old church relocated from Stoke was the perfect fine dining venue but the bar next door that was run by someone else was a bit raggedy at the time.
After relocating to Richmond in 2006 and opening his namesake restaurant, Bouterey’s Restaurant & Bar, he collected numerous accolades including the Best Smart Dining Regional Award in the prestigious Cuisine Restaurant of the Year awards in 2009 and 2010 and was the runner-up in the 2011 award.
Bouterey’s gourmet food journey started when he arrived in London in 1993 and worked his way up the kitchen ladder, “very long hours and minimal pay were the norm” says Bouterey. “I used to work from 7am to 1am, six days a week, and I did that for 10 to 12 years. It was serious graft and I was paid very little until I got to the top, but it was the road I chose.”
Working with some of the greats of London’s culinary world (Anthony Demetre, Garry Rhodes, Marco Pierre White and Bruno Loubet) “who all taught me huge amounts, at the time I was like a sponge, just soaking up everything I could about cooking to take my skills to the next level”.
“My favourite chef was Bruno who had the most incredible knowledge about everything and produced a broad spectrum of cuisine while taking a classically French approach to his food. When I reached that top rung on the ladder it was running Sugar Reef in Soho just off Piccadilly Circus, for a consortium that included the revered and feared chef Marco Pierre White who I met with every month to go over budgets and spending.
“Our restaurant was one of the more successful ones they owned, but if you weren’t pulling your weight, or your bottom line wasn’t right, then you were left there at the end of the meeting and given a bollocking.”
Bouterey also worked for the UN in the Feed the Children campaign in Bosnia during the war before he and his wife Tania returned to New Zealand and set about creating a future for themselves and their children in a place they can have a real connection with the community, especially with producers who they buy the best ingredients they can from.
“We work with a number of local growers” says Bouterey. “One grower has even given us a space where we can grow our own produce. It started with me buying produce from them and they asked if we wanted to plant our own. The gardens have progressed over the years; the plots getting bigger and bigger. It also means we can take our staff to the property and they get to see where the produce they work with comes from and we get to harvest some of our own produce.”
“From growers to local wineries and seafood providers there are too many people who have helped us to list; we have even been to the fisheries where their staff helped improve the fish filleting skills of our team.”
Bouterey’s latest venture, Urban Oyster Bar and Eatery, was Tania’s concept, “she was sick of me being around the house” when he wasn’t working with Reid Helicopters running The Food Source, a helicopter tour with Bouterey filling the role of exclusive private chef and cooking for guests on the top of mountains or a secluded beach somewhere.
At Urban, which is a bar that has an ever changing menu of exceptional food, Bouterey is the executive chef, waiter, trainee cocktail maker, part time cook and menu designer while his head chef, Jeff Soal, runs the kitchen most of the time.
“You can have all the experience and awards in the world, but without Jeff, Jay, Jasper and Chase in the kitchen, our vibrant barman Brian and the rest of our great front-of-house staff, our regulars and friends to support us we wouldn’t be in business.”
Urban is a bar and eatery that could be relocated to Auckland, Sydney, London or New York and would fit right in. This is a sophisticated bar that serves outstanding food, has great local craft beers and an excellent range wines by the glass, all at very affordable prices. www.urbaneatery.co.nz