Like many successful endeavours, Nara on the Square was never intended to outgrow its beginnings.
It started life as petite food truck Nara, founded in a now-defunct Martinborough vineyard by food photographer Lucy Mutch and sommelier Daniel Dew during 2020’s lockdown.
Locals soon became hooked on the delicious Middle Eastern-style food, and it popped up at Te Kairanga Wines, Nga Waka and more recently Palliser Estate. At the latter, Nara became so popular that Mutch and Dew moved into the vineyard’s kitchen, serving up to 250 covers a day.
It began a new life last week in one of the most famous buildings in town as Nara on the Square, a restaurant serving an Ottolenghi-inspired Middle Eastern all-day menu.
It’s opened in the white stucco-fronted heritage P&K building. The new space has been remodelled to a Scandi-style interior with wood and concrete pillars. Sit around oak tables on grey padded chairs and long wooden pews, under large open ceilings with exposed beams. The multiple wine fridges are stuffed with an array of local and international wines, and the open kitchen creates the same customer connection that made the food truck so popular.
“Our menu has some meat but is otherwise very plant-based, with an abundance of bright, colourful and fresh food,” Mutch tells Broadsheet. “Our chef has created an amazing smoothie list [for breakfast time], and visitors can enjoy food that feels like a feast and is really good for you. We’re still doing our fried chicken sliders, though, as there’ll be mutiny if we don’t.”
Brunch dishes include Turkish eggs and atayef (rosewater, pistachio and crème fraîche pancakes); while for lunch you might order marinated lamb skewers served with romesco sauce, garlic and preserved lemon yoghurt; or chermoula-roasted aubergine with bulgur salad and yuzu-infused olive oil.
Dew is well-known in the local wine community, and the wine list is designed to please all tastes. “We absolutely love pinot noir [which Martinborough is famous for], but we want to provide both classic and quirky,” he says. Wines are labelled by style (for example “crisp”, “rich”) rather than varietal, so lovers of specific wine types can try others they may like. There’s still a whole page of pinots noir, with “other reds” including Catena Malbec from Argentina and Massolino Barbaresco DOCG from Italy.