Matakana has a new drawcard destination that's fuelling the weekend throngs with great food and beer.
We needn’t wax lyrical about the virtues of Matakana. Most Aucklanders already know the charming village as being the weekend destination of choice. Now there’s yet another reason to head north when Saturday rolls around. Stationed a few kilometres beyond the Omaha turnoff on Leigh Road is an unassuming black shed that would be easy to scoot past if it weren’t for the green tank broadcasting the Sawmill Brewery logo and a parking lot crammed full of vehicles. For this is the newly minted Sawmill Brewery — a local beer garden that is already drawing in an exorbitant patronage since opening its doors last Friday.
Entering into the lofty, purpose-built shed, one comes face-to-face with the inner workings of the brewery that originally operated from the same site as the Leigh Sawmill Cafe located 10 minutes further north. The wood-decked bar is illuminated by custom-made, hanging copper lights, given context thanks to the tall silver vats that occupy the legitimately industrial background. Here, you can order any one of their delicious brews on tap, complete with rough sawn manuka handles. Off to the right-hand side is a farmhouse-like extension that houses the kitchen, tasting area and access to the courtyard, the latter offering cushion littered squabs, long tables, wall mounted brass-leaners and an expansive area that will no doubt be fully occupied during the summer months.
The creative direction of the brewery — owned by Mike Sutherland and Kirsty McKay — has been spearheaded by Mike Petre, the same talented individual who was responsible for nearby gallery, The Vivian, and Rachel O’Malley. Their artistic sensibilities have undeniably spilt over into all corners including the disparately shaped serving boards that hang behind the pass to the pleasingly heterogeneous lampshades and continuous use of brass accents. The principle material, however, is undoubtedly of the wooden variety with the building’s cladding as well as other various features forged out of South Island beech amongst other storm-felled native timber.
In terms of sustenance, chef Will Michell (the culinary talent from Wellington’s La Boca Loca and Floriditas) has employed his low-n-slow barbeque methods in creating flavourful dishes such as the miso and seaweed smoked goat, the smoked sardine pâté, and the smoked and pickled seasonal vegetables; all of which he has designed to be sampled with and complement the beer made on site. Other feature dishes include the unsurpassable salted Kahawai on sourdough as well as a serving of melt-in-your-mouth flounder with mandarin and watercress (it goes without saying that all seafood is sourced sustainably from the local Leigh Fisheries with an added focus on bi-catch). Enjoyed with a cold glass of boutique beer in hand and you can hardly go wrong.
Rejoicing in the artful hospitality at play here, it’s worth noting that the separate Leigh Sawmill Cafe is still operating as per usual as a restaurant and live music venue. Having long outgrown their original location, the handsome new brewery offers a fresh way of showcasing the beloved local product in some seriously convivial environs.
1004 Leigh Road
(09) 422 6555