The Little Tapas Bar that Lives Down the Lane

by Insiders Dunedin

Here’s a lovely reverse brain-drain story. A brains top-up, as it were. Meet Ben and Nicole, a Dunedin couple who were living in Perth, just minding their own business and concentrating on retaining their vowels. Until, looking at Trade Me one day they saw a café for sale in their home town. ‘Why not?’ they thought (as you do) and put in an offer – blow them down if they didn’t get it. Two months later they’d moved back and into something resembling The Block on crack; frantically turning a building site into Laneway café and tapas bar while simultaneously trying to find out exactly how to run a café and tapas bar.

Ben, who is a builder, installed the industrial-strength kitchen while Nicole painstakingly, pedantically, picked out the menu; trying everything first to make sure it was up to her super-high standards. Did they have any prior hospitality experience? A teensy bit. “We had A LOT to learn and we had to make it work.” says Nicole. “But we have to make spur of the moment decisions, or we’d never do anything. It’s full-on but I wouldn’t want to do it with anyone else.” Still feeling the love despite living and working together, here’s something else you don’t hear every day: the consents process was a doddle. “Everyone we’ve had to deal with, from the tradies to the lovely licensing guy at the DCC, has been absolutely amazing. We picked up our liquor license at 3pm, opened at 5 that day.” Well, I never.

They called their sweet new business ‘Laneway,’ because it’s hidden down Bath street, is coincidentally also the way to get there, and because it’s been their own personal yellow brick road, a journey requiring heart, brains and courage. “I don’t know how we came up with the idea of a tapas bar, though,” says Ben, with the air of one still shell-shocked by the enormity of what they’ve managed to pull off, “but we’ve always loved small bars and unique spaces.” The artwork, too, is unique: the building, formerly a printers, boasts four different pieces by acclaimed UK street artist Phelgm, kindly organised in advance by landlord Luke Johnston. The fireplace, discovered behind a wall, now lends its cheery glow to glasses of beer and wine either from NZ or Spain, cups of stonkingly good Ozone coffee from Taranaki.

Laneway open 6.30 am to 4pm Mon-Thurs and till late on Fri and Sat, one can’t help but wonder what Ben and Nicole do on their one day off? “We sleep.”

Cheerfully hardworking and innovative: I thought New Zealand was breeding this variety for export only. Are more Kiwis returning from Australia, then? “Definitely, says Ben. "The quality of life is so much better in Dunedin. It’s good to be part of a smaller community, not just a number, and we’ve met incredible people who’ve been so supportive. People really care here.” Awww, bless. Make mine a short black, please. 

Laneway Tapas Bar 7 Bath St

Post submitted by Lisa Scott



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