Chef Henry Onesemo has been passionate about food since he was a boy growing up in Samoa. In Auckland, he has worked under Michael Meredith (Mr Morris) and was head chef at East St Hall.

Now, he and his wife Debby Onesemo are launching their own venture Tala, which explores and celebrates traditional Samoan flavours, with a modern slant.

Having started off earlier this year with a series of pop-ups at Bar Magda to start building buzz, it’s been confirmed Tala will take up residence in the former Pasture site after the fine diner abruptly closed in June.

Tala is scheduled to open at 235 Parnell Road at the end of October, and will seat approximately 28 diners inside, with a bar deck to open later in summer.

With Tala translating to “story” or “tale” in Samoan, the menu will centre on different “journeys”, each one a series of dishes inspired by various elements of Samoan cuisine, culture and heritage. Open-fire cooking will be the key method, along with the use of an umu – a traditional Samoan above-ground oven that’s usually filled with hot volcanic stones.

Expect dishes such as spatchcock chicken to come out of the umu, wrapped in banana leaves and cooked in front of you. There will also be dishes inspired by Onsemo’s childhood snacks, such as raw ramen, taro and banana chips, as well as sapasui (Samoan chop suey) with lamb and pork belly, and cured salmon with Pacific flavours.

Entering an earthy yet contemporary space designed by architecture and interiors studio Seear-Budd Ross, diners will experience Tala’s take on Samoan traditions from the get-go as they receive an offering on arrival before cosying up to watch Onesemo and his team at work in the kitchen.

Tala is scheduled to open in late October at 235 Parnell Road, Auckland.

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Updated: September 8th, 2023

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