Q&A with Martin James
Executive chef at Public Kitchen and Bar, Martin James, is passionate about food, wine, hospitality and setting up a ‘good night’ for all. QT Magazine caught up with him at his groups celebrated waterfront restaurant Public Kitchen and Bar.
Why did you choose to serve Kiwi style food at Public?
Some of the hotel concierges told us visitors often requested restaurants with New Zealand food and we interpreted that as the foods our grandmothers used to cook and what we grew up with. Our staff keep the service in a casual Kiwi style which is the key to the experience.
Do you cater for vegetarians?
The vegetarian and vegan options have increased on the menu. We want to serve food that everyone can eat together. If you give people what they want, they are happy – food has the ability to do that.
What’s new for spring and summer at Public?
We’ve introduced things like venison rack that’s perfect to share and delicious crispy Blue Cod that is the Kiwi’s favourite fish.We recently reviewed all 57 dishes on the menu, tweaking some to be better and ensuring they are all still creating an emotional response.
Why is sharing food important to you?
That whole sharing and communing together over food is human instinct– it’s about connecting to something. At Public you can order a whole range of dishes then sit, eat and talk about them and remember things that reference family.
What dishes on the menu are your favourites?
Nana Marg’s Lemon & Thyme Chicken, which is actually my mother’s recipe and I am a big fan of our Classic Chicken schnitzel with garlic butter – the perfect lunch time dish. Also, my mate Matt’s recipe for Spiced Chicken Nibbles is delicious.
How do you interpret success?
People coming in and having a great time, creating memories and enjoying the food and atmosphere. I am really proud of Public because so many people tell us they love it or have been recommended it. I don’t necessarily want to have the number one restaurant in town, but I do want it to be a favourite for people.