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By India• 29 Oct 2018
When British pastry chef Jackie Lee Morrison first visited Wellington, some friends took her on a tour of the hidden-in-plain-view Hannahs Laneway.
After sampling goodies from Fix & Fogg and Wellington Chocolate Factory, the group made their way to Six Barrel Soda Co., which then occupied the upstairs space on the corner of Dixon and Eva Streets.
It was love at first sight.
“I said, ‘This is my dream shop. If it ever came up, this is where I’d want to be,’” Jackie recalls.
Two years later, her dream has come true. Her brownie bar, Lashings, opened in September in that very same spot. “It was meant to be,” she says, happily.
Jackie’s path to Wellington has been full of such serendipitous moments. Raised in London, she was always destined to be a foodie – her grandmother, Maria Lee, was a celebrity chef in Hong Kong who owned a bakery empire.
Jackie began her career as a food journalist but soon realised she would rather create food than criticise it. So she went to culinary school, where she discovered a passion for the “finnickyness” of pastry.
Her first job after graduating was at the world-famous Claridge’s Hotel, and it was a baptism of fire. “I cried every day for six months,” she admits.
But she eventually adjusted to the high-pressure environment and went on to work at several other prestigious London spots, including the Michelin-starred restaurant, Galvin La Chapelle.
Meanwhile, she and her husband, who is from Dunedin, started considering a move to New Zealand. When their London landlord told them that they had to move out, as he was moving back in, they took it as a sign and relocated to Wellington.
Jackie knew she didn’t want another restaurant job. “We moved here because we wanted a better life for ourselves, and working 16-to-20-hour days is not a better life.” Instead, she remembered a comment her husband had made, back in London, when he tried a peanut butter and jam brownie of hers.
“He said, ‘These are the best brownies I’ve ever had, and if we ever went to New Zealand and you started a brownie business, you’d do really well.”
Spoiler alert: he was right.
Jackie started making Lashings brownies in the kitchen of PhotonFlux, which is owned by friends of hers, and soon developed a following. By the middle of this year, she was ready for her own space – and her “dream shop” was ready for a new tenant.
“When the agent told me it was available, I tried not to sound too eager, but I was like, ‘Yes, can I move in right now?’”
The secret to a good brownie, Jackie says, is using butter, not oil, and mixing everything by hand. She adds slightly less sugar than is standard and puts a bit of salt in everything, resulting in a rich but complex flavour.
Her bestsellers are classic milk chocolate and peanut butter, but the most talked-about brownie is undoubtedly the Vegemite one.
“People get freaked out by it, but when they actually try it, about 80 percent really like it,” Jackie says. “There are about 20 percent who do the dance of horror and run away.” (For the record, count me among the 80 percent. That brownie is a revelation.)
Although it might not seem like it, limiting herself to just brownies is actually freeing, she says.
“I can change up the flavours, I can do specials all the time and I can be creative. But, at the end of the day, I’m just creating something that’s really delicious. Everybody knows what brownies are, but hopefully they’ll be the best ones you’ve ever had.”
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