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What I miss about Wellington: top London chef Margot Henderson on what keeps her coming back

By Frances 25 Jul 2019

For renowned London chef Margot Henderson, it all began in Wellington. It’s where she grew up, found her love of food and it’s a city she returns to often. Her much-loved London eatery Rochelle Canteen is now in its 15th year, where Margot’s unfussy and simply delicious food has developed a cult following. Margot is coming back to her hometown this August for Visa Wellington On a Plate and a special collaborative lunch with local eatery Loretta.

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Ahh Wellington, I love her deeply. It’s a bit like the love child of San Francisco, with a touch of Nice, it’s the ideal Kiwi city with beautiful scenery - those hills, I love the hills. 

What do you remember most about growing up Wellington?

Walking, freedom and brown bread. My Mum’s brown bread was like a dream, fresh out of the oven with lashings of butter and honey.

We grew up on the hills in Belmont [a suburb of Wellington, near Lower Hutt]. My Mum made us walk everywhere, including to school, on our own from the age of five, to the Hutt, over the hills searching for our horses or to go late-night shopping. 

We rode horses along the Hutt riverbank; we were out all day, and no one knew where we were until we got home. It was quite a relaxed childhood, we were barefoot and running about all over the hills we grew up on. 

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As a kid, Margot loved roaming the hills above Belmont in Wellington
Photo credit: Jay French

When you’re describing Wellington to people who haven’t been here, what do you say?

Ahh Wellington, I love her deeply. It’s a bit like the love child of San Francisco, with a touch of Nice, it’s the ideal Kiwi city with beautiful scenery - those hills, I love the hills. A city full of great places to eat, but watch out for the weather, it can be crazy, crazy windy and cold(!), but when you get a clear day it’s the best and it’s like you are in heaven. 

You’re a regular visitor to Wellington - what keeps you coming back?

My family; my wonderful mother; my dear, dear friends; my love of the hills, they are in my bones, they are my Tūrangawaewae. Where my feet land, home is home. I am definitely a Londoner, but Wellington is also so much a part of me.

What surprises you each time you come back to Wellington?

How deep my love is for those hills and that sky - so bright, beautiful and clear, it’s like the camera lens is on ultra-clear.

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Nikau Café in Civic Square is a favourite of Margot's

Where do you like to eat in Wellington? 

Nikau Café, we always make sure we arrive in time for lunch and a drive round the bays before we head for Nikau, where we meet friends and family and have one of those crazy, long and relaxed lunches. I also really like Boulcott Street Bistro and the late-night burgers at The Green Parrot.

What’s the dish you most associate with Wellington? 

Oh there are so many! When we were kids, Tokelau Island women would come up to our house and make coconut raw fish. I always remember the women scraping out the coconut with these metal scrapers, they could do it so effortlessly and beautifully.

My favourite food experience ever was near Castlepoint [in the Wairarapa, a 2.5 hour drive from Wellington] with Fergus [Margot’s husband] and our friend Ross, who went diving and caught a crayfish and two paua, which are nearly my favourite food, then to top it off a few kina, literally food of the gods! Kina would be Fergus’ last supper and I think mine too, to be honest.

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Margot is teaming up with Loretta's Marc Weir (centre) for VWOAP

Tell us about your upcoming Visa Wellington On a Plate collaboration with Loretta.

I’m so excited to be heading home to cook up some good tucker. I’m really excited to be working with Loretta, it’s a great restaurant and Marc [Weir, Loretta owner] is brilliant. Marc is sourcing the best produce that New Zealand has to offer, we have high country lamb shoulders coming our way, chickpeas grown in New Zealand, I’m really looking forward to using this produce to create a gentle and soothing lunch.

Meet Margot and try her delicious kai at BFFS - When Rochelle Met Loretta, 8 - 9 August (two lunch seatings each day). Click here for more information and to book your tickets. 

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