Written by Joanne Barrett
"As more people understand this harsh reality, I think that over time the consumption of animal products will become less acceptable,” says Chris. “What seems normal for many people today will seem out of place in a few years from now. I believe the next generation will view the consumption of animal products very differently from how our parents or grandparents did.”
“A generational shift in attitude towards food is emerging, and evidence is overwhelmingly clear - the current Western diet is unsustainable and harmful to the environment.”Preparations to open the café included a full fit-out and, as Chris recalls, people would pop their head in the door to ask what was going in the space. When told it was to be a plant-based eatery some, reacted with, “you surely can’t have a restaurant without eggs,” and “how can you possibly make coffee without real milk?” These comments, he says, were in the minority, and since opening in January 2018, the reaction from locals has been phenomenal and, whilst many of our regular guests are not vegan, the feedback about the food is constantly good.”
The Butcher’s Son opened as a seven day a week breakfast and lunch café. The idea was to give plant-based food an approachable, inclusive and mainstream feel and to let the food speak for itself. Five months on it offered three dinner services per week. Eventually, breakfasts were dropped as it extended its offer to six dinner services. The glass cabinet that once stocked scones and brioches was replaced with a beer tap and spirits bar, thus The Butcher’s Son became New Zealand’s only fully licensed 100% plant-based restaurant. It now opens Tuesday to Sunday serving lunch and dinner.
Chris says, “The idea for a plant-based eatery stemmed from my two-week holiday in Bali where I stayed with long-time friends and ex-work colleagues James and Louise Logan. They had moved to Bali to live two years earlier and, in that time, they had become vegan. I had just changed to a vegetarian diet so naturally we ate at the many vegan cafés and restaurants there.
“Once back in Auckland, I began to research local eateries and found there was a gap in the market for a casual dining, fully licensed, broad appeal, 100% plant-based eatery. Consequently, Louise, James and I agreed to open a café together. The brief was simple - be approachable, casual and a bit cheeky. We did not want to sound haughty or self-righteous with a name like Earth Mother Café or the Love and Kindness Eatery,” he says.
“The name, The Butcher’s Son, fitted the narrative - we can challenge our conditioning and choose our own path, regardless of how we are brought up.”The Butcher’s Son was the name they all agreed on as it implies a shift in attitude towards food, while at the same time being fun. Chris always knew the food and service would create the eatery’s brand and identity, and that the name would hopefully become associated with those values.
Chris says, “Over the past two years, veganism has been the fastest-growing food trend and is forecast to remain so this year. With more awareness around the implications of food choices, and the unsustainability of traditional Western diets, our concept will become increasingly relevant. We often have guests tell us that their meal has changed their perception of plant-based eating. “
Originally, Chris expected he would change the menu seasonally. However, it is a constant process and every couple of weeks something varies with the menu. He experiments with new ideas, then looks to source the components from a variety of specialist suppliers who align with The Butcher’s Son’s values and narrative. The restaurant uses a broad range of the most well-known food service industry suppliers and seeks out other niche suppliers for the more unusual ingredients. This is by far Chris’s favourite part of the job.
“The Butcher’s Son menu is like a breath of fresh air for conscious eaters looking for a casual dining option.”
“Despite the move towards a plan-based diet, many people still want the texture and flavour of familiar dishes, and so our Sunfed ‘Chicken’ Burger is a popular dish,” says Chris. “The Sunfed product is made from pea protein and when cooked it tastes just like meat, very flavourful and completely satisfying.
“That said, we continue to please our ‘long-time vegetarian/vegan’ guests with interesting plant-based dishes using many innovative products some of which come from Chalmers Organics such as organic egg-free vegan aioli and organic natural tofu.”
Along with the selection of craft beers from Garage Project, plus popular lagers including the tap beer Estrella Damm, all the wines and beers have been selected to complement the menu. For something more adventurous, there is a short, vegan cocktail list which includes Margaritas with fresh lime, and espresso martinis.
The Butcher’s Son’s wine list is 100% vegan which Chris says was easy to curate as many wines are already vegan friendly.
In the non-alcoholic range, they serve Fairtrade, organic coffee from Atomic; the blend works extremely well with their selection of plant-based milks. Fairtrade soft drinks from Karma Cola are the perfect fit, as are the cold-pressed juices and smoothies from Homegrown.
Chris says, “Being located on Jervois Road works well for our concept. It’s central and accessible. It’s exciting to be part of the Ponsonby/Herne Bay community, and we have been welcomed and supported by so many locals who are now regular customers.”
It is very clear that sustainability, nutrition and the conviviality of the hospitality industry are at the core of what Chris loves. Chris says he can see an opportunity to expand the brand, or to open another variation of the concept, but for now there is still a need to settle into their new identity before they can fully get to grips with a future opportunity.