Arorangi café lives up to its name

Monday October 09, 2017 Written by Published in Hot on the Rock
Power couple: Beluga owners Nathan Haywoad, who customers rate as the top barista on the island, and Lou Christy. 17100601 Power couple: Beluga owners Nathan Haywoad, who customers rate as the top barista on the island, and Lou Christy. 17100601

It’s not every day that you get served a coffee by someone who has been declared the best barista on Rarotonga.

 

Unless, that is, you’re one of the many people who flock to Arorangi’s hugely popular Beluga café every day.

By the time I arrived at 10am for my interview with owner Lou Christy I had already had one coffee.

I really shouldn’t have had another one, but at Beluga it’s just so hard to say no.

The idea for the café came to Christy and her husband Nathan Haywoad  when they thought that there was a place on the Arorangi strip for a café/gift store.

“I’m a chef by trade, and I’ve had cafés and restaurants in Sydney,” Christy says. So, we came over here four years after we sold a business to have a break, have a holiday,”

“And about four months ago we saw a need on the Arorangi strip for a café/gift store and that’s what we decided to do.

“I’m half Cook Islander, so I wanted to come back here and do something eventually.”

Both agreed that when the café opened, it should be a proper Cook Islands experience.

“It’s a collaboration of fresh local produce.

“We source all local fruits, vegetables, fish, home baking. We try to keep away from fatty foods, we go more for fish salads, fresh prawns.

“We use the local artesian baker dealer, so we really try to use as much local produce as we can. And we really wanted to do it like this.

“We are surround by such rich produce, and we wanted to take advantage of that.”

So far most popular items on the menu seem to be the Anzac cookies, which Christy says “fly out the door”, as well as the daily lunch menu.

“Our daily lunch specials are really popular and we change the menu every day for the specials.

“So we’ll do a trio of seafood: Salt and pepper squid, sashimi, and we go to get our fish fresh from the local fisherman every day.”

When deciding how to go about realising their idea of setting up a café in Arorangi they approached well-known local artist Kay George and asked how she’d feel about renting her art gallery to them as a café.

 George was quickly on board, and the café’s gift section now features her distinctively Pacific art and textiles.

“Over here, this style of café isn’t done so much, but it’s to cater for our local needs as well,” says Christy.

“We always like to buy things, so I thought that it would be great to combine local and imported fine things that people can come and buy.

“We’ve only been open for five months but we feel we’ve had a really good response.”

In fact, the response has been so great that sometimes customers come in just for the gift store.

“Sometimes people will come in and say that they need to buy something for a birthday that night. I’ve even opened the shop up privately for people to come in and do some personal shopping.”

With her international experience, one of Christy’s goals is to impart her knowledge to her staff, who incidentally are all local, about the ins and outs of the industry.

“I’m working with training, especially in the kitchen and out on the floors. We’ve had a fantastic response. It’s really encouraging seeing young people want to come work in the industry.

“I hope that it’s been an example for other young Cook Islanders, that they could also open their own café one day.”

One of the major highlights for the owners of Beluga this year was the café’s opening, which was attended by Tinomana Ariki and members of the aronga mana (traditional leaders). This was especially important to Christy as her family is from Arorangi village.

“It sort of felt like coming home.”

When asked about the name, Christy smiles, noting many people have asked if it is named after the beluga whale.

“The name comes from the Russian caviar, and when translated that means ‘the best’. It has a nice ring to it.

“We have only been open for a few months, but we feel as though we are living up to it (the name) so far.”

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