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For 10 years, Emma Walters and Brad King have run The Falls Retreat as a restaurant, but the lack of skilled hospitality staff has required them to do things a little differently. Photo: SUPPLIED

Different experiences, same great service


It’s the same quality of service, just in a slightly different format, and the team at The Falls Retreat remain as passionate as ever about the food they put on the plate.
The popular bistro, nestled in the Karangahake Gorge, relaunched in May, providing diners with new experiences to expand their food knowledge.
For 10 years, co-owners Emma Walters and Brad King ran the bistro as a restaurant, but the lack of skilled hospitality staff, only made worse with Covid-19, required them to do things a little differently.
“The changes that we’ve made have been a necessity. Our industry is in an absolute crisis, there’s just no staff,” Emma told The Profile.
“If we were going to keep making everything from scratch, and grow our own produce, and put a lot of attention into the food and service, we couldn’t continue doing that in the original model.
“So, we are no longer offering a lunch and dinner menu, but we still have the same amazing food and great hospitality, and you can choose from three different dining experiences.”
The Pizza Social on Friday nights has a casual-style sharing menu, featuring the bistro’s wood fired pizzas, chunky chips and organic salads.
The Paddock to Plate Dining Experience on Saturday nights is a four-course degustation menu with a housemade welcome drink on arrival.
The Sunday Feast at lunchtime is a two-course set menu showcasing the bistro’s popular dishes, with an opportunity for a self-guided tour of its organic veggie gardens.
The retreat also runs cooking and gardening workshops on selected Saturdays at lunchtime, with the option of booking for groups and functions of 12 or more people.
“We’re trying to tell more of a story about where the food comes from and how we make it,” Emma said.
“And after Covid, we tried everything. You’ve got to adapt and I think that’s what we’ve done.”
The Falls Retreat has gone from having six chefs to just two, Emma said.
The kitchen is run by her husband, head chef Brad King, and they were still looking for skilled chefs to join the team.
“Until we get more staff, we won’t be able to increase our hours,” she said.
The retreat’s location is ideal for Hauraki Rail Trail users, and it also has three accommodation options: The Rose Cottage, the Waterfall Cabin, and the new Log Cabin.
They also specialise in hosting functions and weddings, with the picture-perfect Owharoa Falls as the backdrop.
“We are open, and we still have the same values, and the same amazing food, it’s just delivered in a more unique way.”