By Cuisine8 Minutes
April 7, 2021By Cuisine

hospitality the friendly and generous reception and entertainment of guests, visitors or strangers.

It was with great sadness that I read on social media the words quoted in this piece. Chef Darren Lovell has been a huge champion of the New Zealand seafood story through his beloved Fishbone restaurant in Queenstown. In fact, Darren is the reason that you never see a recipe for prawns on our pages these days, but that’s another story.

It’s impossible to imagine how hard it must have been for Darren to write these heart-rending words. We publish them here as a tribute to the passing of a much-loved restaurant and also to remind you of the extreme challenges that lay ahead for an industry that cannot operate sustainably without close contact and interaction with humans. One thing is for sure, we can no longer take great hospitality or the talented teams behind a great restaurant experience for granted. It’s time for us as customers to truly value the places that deserve our support… KEL

It’s with tears in my eyes that I write this but Fishbone will close its doors for the final time tomorrow.

It’s been fifteen fabulous f***ing years and I’d like to thank a few people for making it so.

Mark Godden, who kickstarted this crazy culinary journey with me. When I said to you way back in 2003, “Let’s move to Queenstown and open a restaurant,” you didn’t hesitate, AND LOOK WHAT HAPPENED! Dream ridiculous dreams folks; you never know, they may come true. THANK YOU.

To our parents, Donna Godden and Tricia Brown who gave all the love and support two moms could from afar. Thank you.

To Mike Hill who made buying Fishbone possible. THANK YOU for trusting us with your baby.

To all the staff: the kitchenhands, the waiters, the chefs and the managers; wow, there were so many of you and you are all family. Some of the most amazing, beautiful and talented people from around the world walked through those doors on Beach Street looking for a job. We had our moments – I had to be the boss, big brother, dad, mom (lol), priest, social worker, best friend and confidant – it was sometimes exhausting but rewarding beyond words. Keep living life with that same adventurous spirit that brought you to Queenstown in the first place. There are too many of you to single out any by name, so a big THANK YOU to all of you, especially my favourites, you know who you are (lol – that’s an in-house joke, hehe). I will mention Takushi Maekawa, who stood by my side as a sous chef for more than 13 years. How you put up with me for that long I’ll never know, but thank you for doing so.

To the men and women who work in the seafood industry around New Zealand. This industry is much maligned in New Zealand; some of it is probably warranted but most of it isn’t. Thank you for risking your lives catching the best seafood in the world. It truly is. Fishbone, from the very first day we took over, was on a mission to share New Zealand seafood with the world and we did so proudly. Thank you.

To Lauraine Jacobs. What can I say? You got Fishbone and you became our biggest champion, our biggest fan and a special friend. Fishbone was never more than a little bistro serving simple seafood dishes made with care and love and you understood that and saw the beauty in that. Thank you. Your support also led others in New Zealand to take notice. Thank you to Kelli Brett for fulfilling a chef’s dreams and to Giulio Sturla who, through ConversatioNZ, gave me a voice and even a little credibility! Thank you.

To all of you who have dined with us. THANK YOU. Naturally, we couldn’t have succeeded without you. All I ever wanted to do was make people happy through food and I hope I did that for most of you. The biggest compliment you can ever pay a chef is returning, so another kiss to those who returned and hugs to those who went on to become regulars. And then there are those who became lifelong friends – Brad Strader, F & M (Fred Foss), Anita May Blanchett and dearly departed Tim Wilson. You came into Fishbone on a whim and you never really left. Thank you.

And finally to you babe, Kareem Jordan Harvey. I am so sorry you had to bear witness to all of this. I am so sorry you never got to enjoy the successes of Fishbone. As things got tougher, you got stronger. You always amaze me. I love you. Thank you for wiping away the tears, for giving me a hug, for holding my hand and whispering in my ear that everything will be OK. Everything will be OK. The tears will end soon, I promise and we can laugh again and look forward to the future. The universe has a different plan for us and I cannot wait to see what that is.

So, no tears just cheers to the good times and the bad. To the 5-star Tripadvisors and the 1-star Tripadvisor, to the compliments and the complaints, the hats, the articles and the accolades. To the blocked sinks, the burst water pipes, the overflowing sewage and the endless refrigeration repairs. Cheers to the kitchen banter, the kitchen fights, the jokes, the tears, the late staff and those who just never showed up again. Cheers to late deliveries, Fishbone Farm and shucking f***ing Bluff oysters. Cheers to the romances, the babies – I think there were two – the weddings and, sadly, even a funeral. To the friends, the food, the love – I wouldn’t change a thing. DARREN LOVELL