Coming Soon: TALA Is New Zealand's First-Ever Restaurant Dedicated to Modern Samoan Cuisine
This newcomer is set to fill a gaping hole in Auckland's food offerings, serving up traditional dishes with a modern twist.
September 19, 2023
Mark your calendars: New Zealand's first-ever restaurant focused on modern Samoan cuisine is opening its doors in October. Husband and wife duo Henry and Debby Onesemo are setting up TALA as a permanent addition to the Auckland food scene, after testing the waters during a pop-up series at Karangahape Road's Bar Magda.
The couple has big shoes to fill, as TALA takes over the site that used to be home to seven-seater restaurant Pasture, which closed down after seven years. While TALA will have a few more seats than Pasture, it is starting off small, with just 28 spots; however, there are plans to expand with a bar deck as the weather gets warmer.
"It's a fantastic space and we're excited to transform it into a brand new experience for TALA," said Henry, who boasts experience as a chef at Meredith's, Apero and East St. Hall.
"I can't wait to welcome our guests into a fun dining atmosphere where they'll be able to see all the action of the kitchen, and to introduce them to a fresh perspective on the diverse range of Samoan flavours and ingredients."
The name TALA represents the Samoan word for story, which Onsemo plans to weave into every aspect of the restaurant from what he serves to its fitout. The eatery will be centred around an umu, an open fire that is used in lieu of an oven — and diners will be able to watch their dishes, like the spatchcock chicken, being prepared.
"The timing of this dish has to be precise and leaves no room for mistakes because it is to be unveiled in the middle of service as one of the main dishes on the menu," advised Henry.
Diners can expect a wide range of traditional but slightly tweaked Samoan treats, like cured salmon sprinkled with coconut, wasabi, sago and banana — and a nostalgic snack of raw ramen, taro and banana chips that's straight out of Henry's childhood.
The fitout for the restaurant was overseen by architecture and interiors company Seear-Budd Ross, who wanted to make sure the space didn't fall into the trap of "cliche and tokenism". Diners will wander into the "cave-like" restaurant, which has been decorated with textured timbers, deep brown fabrics and lighting that has been carefully placed to focus on the food in front of you.
The Onsemos struck up a partnership with hospitality training centre MSL Training during their Bar Magda days, where they hired students to help them out and learn the ropes. The pair plan to carry this on in a more permanent way once TALA is up and running.
Find TALA at 235 Parnell Road, Parnell, Auckland from late October 2023. For more information, head to the TALA website.
Images: Manja Wachsmuth.
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