It's not often a restaurant opens to such critical acclaim and closes a week later.
However, it's been confirmed. Greenpark Primary's pop-up restaurant, The Ruapehu, will be back. It was so successful it'll pop-up, positively burst forth, again next year in a new incarnation.
“We may be onto something big,” says the concept man, teacher, chef, maitre-d' Ben Brock.
The Ruapehu had modest beginnings, but word quickly got around. And even when the restaurant doors closed after a week-long stint, people were calling to make bookings. “We could easily have booked out a second week,” says Ben.
“The children and teachers were all very tired, but also ecstatic about how the whole experience panned out.” Ecstatic because even the fashionable foodie set in Auckland were talking about The Ruapehu. The executive chef of one chic Auckland lunch establishment came, saw, savoured and now wants to be part of next year's event.
There was even a suggestion some big food companies may want to be involved next year – perhaps some sponsorship.
“So glad you enjoyed the experience,” said Ben in a message to The Weekend Sun. Two of our reporters were there on opening day for the New Zealand water infused with organic lemon, an entree of country pumpkin soup, the rustic vegetable curry served with basmati rice and decadent chocolate brownie with a dab of Greek yoghurt.
They could have had creamy leek and potato soup followed by traditional beef lasagna and fresh garden salad with light balsamic dressing, then indulged in the mouthwatering lemon drizzle cake.
The reporters likened the experience to a dinner plus show. The food was good, the antics of the kids even better. Like the boy sweeping the floor which was already shining with hospital grade hygiene. And the disinterested kitchen hand almost asleep on his elbows beside the lemon drizzle cake. For all the world, or this case, a few lunchtime diners to see.
It started out as a way of raising a few dollars for an end of year trip to the beach – if the kids made some money, another financial responsibility wouldn't fall on parents at an expensive time of year. “Overall we made a profit of $2200,” says Ben. “Which was amazing as I was hoping we would break the $1000 mark. It has meant that we are just about able to make the end of year trip a freebie.”
And the momentum's continuing. Greenpark's already working on the next experience – teachers are brainstorming. “We will definitely be re-opening The Ruapehu next year but with a different group of children, a different theme and a different menu.”
The Weekend Sun did raise the issue of the name, The Ruapehu. The mountain's 250km away and out of sight. But Ruapehu's still very relevant to the Greenpark Primary kids. Ruapehu is one of the school syndicates, one of the year groups.
“The decision was the kids' as Ruapehu is how they're known collectively at school,” says Ben.
“And thanks again everyone for your support.”