Pull up at Deckchair

If location, location, location is the number one rule of real estate then Deckchair Beachfront Café at Mt Maunganui gets a very big tick.

It is slap-bang opposite the Mount’s main beach on Marine Parade, in a “city central” dining strip with enviable sea views, generous frontages and outdoor tables; a magnet for people ambling up from the surf for coffee or brunch, and oceans of atmosphere. Deckchair has had a long run on this site, and nowadays it is owned by two Aussies and an American, who saw the potential late last year to buy a slice of Mount dining history in a top spot.

The Aussies are Nick Potts, from Melbourne, and Perrin Yates, from the Sunshine Coast, and the American is Jay Thomas, ex-North Carolina. The three of them are now comfortably at home in the Bay of Plenty, and well connected in local hospo: Nick, a trained restaurant manager, and wife Chloe Ashman, own Solera wine bar and eatery in the Mount’s main street. Jay, whose background is in IT, owns the nearby Saltwater Seafood Grill & Oyster Bar, and Perrin, former executive chef at Clarence Bistro and Picnicka in Tauranga, oversees Deckchair’s kitchen.

Jay is the one without hospo on his CV but he brews his own beer, does the administration for Saltwater and Deckchair, doubles as a handyman, and on some busy nights he’s been spotted in Saltwater’s kitchen washing dishes or peeling prawns. He lives within handy walking distance of Saltwater, Solera and Deckchair. “I leave the car at home.”

On this Tuesday morning, with the white-topped waves rolling in, the trio sit across the road at the refurbished beachy-blue Deckchair, and they’re pretty pleased with their pre-Christmas purchase. “It’s in an almost-too-good-to-be-true location,” says Nick.

He says there was the added bonus of the adjacent premises becoming available as well. They quickly reinvented the former ice cream parlour as Sundowner Beachfront Bar, now a casual outdoor space for summery cocktails, wine, beer and bar snacks (from Deckchair’s kitchen). “It was the perfect off-shoot.” Sundowner is open from midday, with prime drinks time between 2pm and 8pm, and the long-term goal is to develop the bar’s interior with more seating and facilities.

Perrin has put together new menus for both places. At Deckchair, he aimed for a contemporary, approachable all-day line-up. “We wanted to lift things up a notch. Pretty much everything is made in-house. We don’t do our own bread but we use local Mount Sourdough. It’s all the good stuff. We smoke our own bacon, brisket and salmon, make the pastry, sauerkraut and condiments, and use Bay of Plenty fruits for juices and smoothies.”

The smoked brisket and sauerkraut come together neatly in a Reuben sandwich with Russian dressing and pickle. Local mushrooms are the stars of another dish, served on toasted brioche with hazelnut, parsley and garlic. There’s also a smoked beef hash benedict, smoked salmon bagel, and vegan souvlaki, as well as a Mount burger, fish burger, salt and pepper calamari, and fish and chips. (How could you not do fish and chips when you’re in sight of sea, sand and seagulls?)

There is cabinet food as well, and Perrin says they’ve happily retained Deckchair’s “world famous in Mt Maunganui” date scones, using the original recipe, and they’ve added newcomers such as  beef, kale and mushroom pies, robust sausage rolls,  lemon meringue pie and banana bread.

At little sister Sundowner, bar snacks include barbecued sweetcorn with chipotle mayo, pecorino and lime; cured meats with sourdough and pickles; crayfish roll; parmesan churros; freshly shucked oysters with shallot mignonette and lemon; and macarons or Eton mess if you fancy something sweet.

Nick says that given the other commitments that he, Perrin and Jay have, it’s been important to build a strong staff team on the waterfront. Key appointments are Jana Puri, front-of-house at Deckchair, chefs Matiu Kaihau and Thiago Ferreira Lopes in the kitchen, and Léa Vallé at Sundowner.

Their customers are a mix of holidaymakers and locals, and Nick adds that the locals are an important market in themselves. “We want to give them good places to eat, year round.”

The other day, I bagged a sunny outdoor table at Deckchair, enjoyed a Spanish omelette with chorizo, smoked paprika, and a killer salsa verde, watched the waves roll in,  batted away a squawky seagull or two, and all seemed well with the world. The two Aussies and the American are making the most of their prime slice of Mount real estate.

Words Denise Irvine, images Brydie Thompson

2 Marine Parade
Mt Maunganui


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