Written by Joanne Barrett
Photography by Joanne Barrett
The inspiration for Westmere residents Karen Hannan and Tim Greenhough to build a back-yard smokehouse at their property and sell smoked salmon from a quaint little front-yard shed, stems from their experience of buying smoked fish out of an old wharf shed in Mapūa, Nelson.
Whilst Karen and Tim are originally from Auckland, they spent 20 years in Nelson involved in hospitality and owning restaurants.
“Smoked fish, as a fresh, hot product, was very much part of the Mapūa Wharf experience,” says Karen. “People would queue at the little wharf shed waiting for the next batch from the smoker.”
They returned to Auckland and have lived in Westmere for three years now. During this time, they always had it in the back of their minds they would like to somehow offer people in the ‘big smoke’, a similar experience.
“We put our proposal to council outlining the scope of our operation, to include smoking and handling processes and sales,” says Tim. “This was approved as a home-based business on the premise that specific requirements and ongoing audits be met.
"Our smokehouse has been in operation for one month now. The scale of our venture allows us to smoke the salmon in small batches and means we have complete control over the smoking process and its consistency.”
The salmon which we source from the cold southern waters of Big Glory Bay at Rakiura Stewart Island, lends itself very well to smoking.
Tim says if he were to determine the point of difference their product offers, it would simply be that because the salmon is sold fresh straight from the smoker, the texture is moist and, because it’s smoked in a blend of mānuka and pōhutukawa, the flavour is unbelievably delicious.
But more than that, they offer a healthy and versatile product which, when paired with a fresh green salad, makes the perfect summer meal. Tim adds, “We feel it is competitively priced and certainly the feedback we’ve had from customers has been very positive.
Karen and Tim don’t package the smoked salmon in plastic, they carefully wrap it in paper, ready to eat.
“We wanted to offer this product in a quaint and rustic environment on a friendly neighbourhood corner where locals can call in, have a chat and buy hot mouth-watering smoked salmon fresh from the smoker.”
In addition to the salmon, and for something a little sweeter, Karen bakes her amazing baguettes, scrumptious shortbread, and little friands, which are small almond cakes. In French ‘friand’ literally means 'a tasty thing’. Memories of old-fashioned home baking, raiding the biscuit tins or buying home-baked goodies at the school fair spring to mind.
“We would like to think that in a small way our smokehouse has bought the community together,” says Karen.
“The locals who have watched the little shed go up have been so positive about the arrival of our neighbourhood smokehouse, and the reactions from those who have ventured through the front gate have made us feel it’s all worthwhile.”
Tim has lovingly restored the little old shed to a high standard. He has created a gorgeous courtyard in front of the shed complete with a sun-shade sail. This provides the perfect space for people to gather when purchasing their smoked salmon.
Karen and Tim have put a great deal of thought into the interior of the shed and have carefully selected some beautiful memorabilia to form part of their story.
You can’t help but notice the stunning contemporary photographic image of whitebait taken by photographer Peter Peryer. But the real treasure is the photo of Tim’s grandfather sitting in his fishing boat while mending a net. This photo was taken at Orua Bay on the Manukau Harbour where Tim’s ancestors have gathered since the 1880s, and his family still do today.
Tim vividly remembers, when the net bulged with mullet, all hands gathered to prepare the fish ready to go into an old corrugated iron smokehouse fuelled by mānuka scrub from up the back of the beach.
Tim says, “Very occasionally some enthusiastic individuals continue the tradition, but this seldom happens today in the city. It was certainly my first contact with smoking fish and is still a nostalgic memory for me. I’m sure many Kiwi’ have similar memories and experiences of their own.”
Although Karen and Tim haven’t officially named the business, they figure as the smokehouse is on Kōtare Avenue and Kōtare is the Māori name for the Kingfisher, then it seems appropriate to call it Kōtare Smokehouse - for now, at least.
Kōtare (pronounced Kōta-ri) is the Māori name for Kingfisher.
“We love living in Westmere,” says Karen. “It is central and just a short drive to the CBD and yet it still has a lovely laidback feel. The neighbourhood is so friendly, and we have certainly experienced this since the smokehouse has been in operation.”
Karen and Tim are proud of their product and are thrilled to provide it to the local community. Kōtare Smokehouse is open Thursday to Sunday from 8am. As you drive along Westend Road, look out for their blackboard signs. There’s nothing like good food to bring people together.