July 9, 2021 The Welly On a Plate team

Visa Wellington On a Plate’s gone Out of Place - Lulu Bar and Taste the Pacific

Taste of Pacific is Lulu's Festival event for Visa Wellington On a Plate 2021.

Every year, the Visa Wellington On a Plate team creates a Festival theme as a starting point for restaurants, eateries and bars taking part in Visa Wellington On a Plate all over the Wellington region. 

This year’s Festival theme is Out of Place (it was kind of appropriate after the year that was 2020, right?), and has seen eateries creating Festival events, Dine Wellington dishes, Garage Project presents Burger Wellington burgers and Cocktail Wellington presented by Tommy’s cocktails, which celebrate the improvisers, the fresh thinkers, the misfits, the rebellious, those who dance to their own tune and go against the grain. It's surprising, challenging, different, new, adventurous, exotic, momentous, delicious and curious.

One recurring theme we’re seeing in this new age of restricted travel, is what lies beyond the shores of Aotearoa, with Festival venues offering to take diners around the world with flavours from Sri Lanka, Canada, the Philippines, Syria, Greece, Korea and the Pacific Islands, to name a few. 

Lulu Bar on Courtenay Place whisking Visa Wellington On a Plate festival goers away to the Pacific Islands with its Festival event, Taste the Pacific. Haven’t had a chance to book your tickets to Rarotonga yet? Missing your island holiday to Samoa this year? This is the event for you.

We chatted to Lulu Bar’s Head Chef, Margaret Gabriel, about what Lulu’s festival event has in store (oyster shucking, learning to make island cocktails, all-you-can eat FANCY boil ups!), and what inspires her when she is dishing up some of the very best Māori and Pasifika flavours and dishes that can be found in the Capital.

Tell us a bit more about The Taste of the Pacific event at Lulu for Visa Wellington On a Plate. What did you want people to experience in the way of Pasifika cuisine and culture? 

Our Taste of the Pacific event is an opportunity for people to come together and enjoy a meal, sit down with family and friends and just eat. We are all about the Pacific flavours and a chance to champion the dishes and experiences that are uniquely New Zealand, like the humble boil up, is what Lulu is all about. 

Tell us a bit about your heritage - do you draw on it for inspiration for events like Taste of the Pacific? 

I was born in New Zealand, raised in Auckland, but I am Samoan in nationality, and I have been a chef for about 20 years. I started in hotels working for the Chateau on Mt. Ruapehu, the Hilton and Huka Lodge, both in Taupō. I have been in Wellington for about six years and this will be my third Visa Wellington On a Plate. Before coming to Wellington I had never heard of the Festival! 

I grew up eating taro, cassava, a lot of seafood, especially my mother’s oka (a traditional Samoan dish made with fresh fish and coconut), a lot of coconut cream, and a lot of care packages from Samoa! I still get to use a lot of these ingredients at Lulu as we are all about the Pacific and Māori flavours. The restaurant's theme is Oceanic eats and beats. We want it to be an experience, whether it is food, drinks or the live music.

What sort of food and experiences can people expect at The Taste of Pacific? 

We’ll have the all-you-can eat “Fancy Boil Up”, which is a favourite at Lulu’s - we sometimes have it as a special. I was describing it to the boss, who wasn’t too sure. I’d describe it as “it’s a boil up ...but fancy”, and the name just stuck. So now every time the staff describe it to diners, they say it’s a Fancy Boil Up and it always gets a few giggles. I think people will be surprised that it actually tastes like a boil up that you would have at home…. but fancy looking!

You also get to shuck your own oysters at The Taste of Pacific! Do you have to be good at shucking oysters to come along?

The oyster shucking is a demonstration or people can participate.  We always have oysters on the menu at Lulu, so they always appear in our events, and they are always shucked on site to order.

Seafood Tower, Lulu's Dine Wellington festival dish.

What particular part of Visa Wellington On a Plate at Lulu’s are you really excited for people to experience this year?

I think we have a few show stoppers this year and our Seafood Tower for Dine Wellington will draw a lot of attention as it is epic. We put a lot of emphasis on people having a great experience, so we like to go big at Lulu.

Taste of the Pacific is one of many festival events celebrating flavours and cultures from overseas. Explore our Out of Place curated list and plan your culinary adventures for Visa Wellington On a Plate this August.