Foodie fads come and go — and one of the latest coming to Raglan soon is the pop-up restaurant that promises an exclusive, fine-dining experience.

It’s that “crazy, scientific side of fine dining” that Raglan chef Lerryn Hawken loves, and he’s keen to see if there’s a decent number of foodies around town who want to join in.
Come late January Lerryn — resident chef at The Shack for the past 18 months or so — will reveal his “random location”, move in for a night with maybe one big table and another chef on hand and provide the best menu he can possibly come up with for about 25 fellow gastronomers.

It’ll be a style of food Raglan’s never seen before, he promises. Think sake champagne sorbet, wasabi tobiko and coconut shaving cream — the recipe not the skin-care product. Add a dehydrated kiwifruit and honey pearls which are like caviar balls of honey that “explode in your mouth”, explains Lerryn, and you’ve got some very technical tastes to play with.

“Geeky chef stuff”, Lerryn admits, but serious food all the same and achieved by experimenting with hydrocolloids for instance, which means a chef can create almost any shape and texture using food without compromising flavour.

Essentially it’s molecular gastronomy — or edible experiments designed to “blow your socks off”!
This is not the kind of cooking you’d get at home or in a restaurant, Lerryn points out. It’s a “big fad” in the UK and has taken off in Auckland where a library and a carpark building have been used as the venue.

“Prep-wise” it’s all done in another kitchen, says Lerryn, then he sets up somewhere else for his ideal eight-course degustation or tasting menu which will include complementary cocktail drinks and wines matched to the food by a sommelier.

It’s about being inventive, playing with the senses and having a fun dining experience, he adds hinting at the possibility of flambéd food. “I like to surprise people and throw in a bit of theatre for good measure.”

And everything on the plate will be locally produced, he says, if not from the likes of Whale Bay’s own Kaiwhenua Organics then at least from within the South Waikato region. Even the plates of wood and slate are being personally handcrafted by Lerryn’s father in Hamilton.

The 29-year-old chef — who divides his time between Raglan and Hamilton where he’s also a DJ, producer and engineer at The Porch Recording Studio — kicked off his restaurant career in the city, first at ‘Domaine’ then ‘Tables On the River’ before more recently starting ‘Nash’ in Cambridge.

While he wanted to be counted among the country’s top 10 restaurants within six months of opening, he got to be first-equal with Auckland’s The Grove in Metro magazine’s awards last year after only three months. And while at The Narrows in 2010 he was a finalist in Waikato Food and Wine Festival.

Lerryn will be selling tickets and finalising arrangements for his pop-up restaurant a month or so before the gourmet event.
Edith Symes