Mangawhai just my style says new tavern manager
BY JULIA WADE
Mangawhai’s iconic tavern has undergone a spring clean with a new manager, fresh menu and a grand new entrance. And there’s more proposed changes planned.
Long-time visitor and regular Mangawhai surfer, Justin Howse officially became Mangawhai Tavern’s new general manager in September, after working part-time in the pub since January. UK-born and a Kiwi for the last 19 years, Howse says Mangawhai and the Tavern both hold a nostalgic feel for him, reminding him of the small Somerset village where he grew up and the country pubs where he began his hospitality career.
The 45-year-old, who has vast experience in the hospitality trade including owning the Neighbourhood Brewbar in Kingsland for ten years, has also traded coastlines, moving into Mangawhai recently along with his wife and 11-year-old daughter from their west coast Piha home. “After living there for 12 years the transition here is pretty easy, the two areas are very similar though Mangawhai is obviously bigger – I’m slowly getting to know everyone,” he says. “It’s a change of pace.
The Brewbar was one of the first craft beer pubs to open in New Zealand and we did well for years in that market… but it is a long time to be in the same building, nice to have a change of scenery.” Getting to know people is one of Howse’s current objectives as he says this helps him work out his market and ‘what the place needs’. The menu has already undergone a makeover by a new culinary team which includes Indian and South African chefs who bring their own unique flavouring to the recipes.
“The main thing for me was we needed to change the food… pubs just aren’t drinking holes anymore, you got to put the effort into food… not to over-complicate but to be consistent and change seasonally but with a core menu. We’ve gone away a bit from the standard pub food and introduced a bit of spice. We’re also sourcing fresh fish from a local supplier,” he says.
“So far we’ve received good reviews, people seem to be happy.” Live music will continue to entertain punters and although aware the Tavern has a reputation for big gigs, Howse says it is getting harder to book the more wellknown acts due to rising costs and the pub’s venue size ‘not being what they want’. “We’re moving towards more regular entertainment, consistent live acts and locals like Sojourn who played here recently, to find different people and keep it fresh… a family friendly, food-driven pub.”
Part of the job is to present the Tavern’s owners with ideas and Howse’s next plan is to enhance the outdoor area, ‘the consensus is the grass has to go… thinking of a deck’. Decreasing the time customers stand in the drinks line at live gigs is also under consideration he says, with possibly an outdoor bar or a third till to be added to ‘take the pressure off’.
“We also just hired a full-time driver for our free courtesy car on Friday and Saturday nights, that was a major thing we wanted to get into place,” he says. “People may not be aware but there is a police pressure and liquor licensing clamp
down and that translates to us… there’s a balance of making sure customers have a good time… but the days of coming to the pub and getting out of control have gone.”
The Tavern’s ongoing environmentally-friendly procedures including the monthly street-clean with complimentary breakfast, which still attracts a core group of 20 locals, and food scraps feeding Mangawhai pigs will continue, along with the new introduction of new metal and ‘straw straws’ to replace the one-use plastic variety. After working for 25 years in hospitality ‘right across the board from bistros, fine dining to a stint at Lone Star’, fivestar hotels such as Auckland’s Hilton as well as being general manager at only 25, Howse is brimming with experience.
However he says the Tavern is just his style – as is the laid back feel of Mangawhai itself. “Moving here means a simpler lifestyle, I can put all the things I’ve learnt into giving a professional service without being too formal, walk to work after ten years of a daily 45 minute commute and have more time to do stuff, which basically means anything to do with the water! It’s nice, a good work-life balance.”