All about Mesita Wine Bar with Alice Bourdôt and Hayden Gibbes.

Tell us a little about yourselves. [Alice] We moved to Featherston almost two years ago after living in Melbourne, Utah, Arizona and Mexico. We both have years of experience in hospitality, Hayden as a chef and myself in cinema management. Since we moved over the hill I’ve had the pleasure of looking after Ventana Creative Collective and Hayden has been juggling a part-time arborist job with scenic artist work in Wellington.

Why a wine bar and why did you choose the space in Martinborough? [Hayden] I’d been looking for the right place for my own business, when the opportunity to purchase the former Micro Bar in Martinborough came up and it just felt right. It’s an incredible little space with so much potential.

What’s special about Mesita? [Hayden] Mesita feels homely and comfortable and all the food is handmade. The wine is produced in our region, except for some international additions to keep things exciting for our locals. The small size of Mesita has already shaped what we’re doing and will also shape the direction we move in.

What inspires and excites you about the food and wine in Wairarapa? [Alice] Working with so many small independently run businesses is a dream! There’s so much incredible wine and produce at our fingertips now – it all revolves around community spirit and people supporting each other with their various strengths and skills. We’ve had customers and friends drop off gifts from their own gardens and orchards. Bags of walnuts, buckets of tomatillos, chillies, apples, pears and kamo kamo – our customers know everything will end up on the menu in one way or another; I think that’s exciting for them too! You’d struggle to buy tomatillos at a supermarket anywhere in New Zealand, but they grow like crazy here in Wairarapa, along with chillies and citrus – some of the staples of the Mexican cocina.

What kind of food do you like to cook in winter? [Hayden] Stew, broth, anything braised, simple, cleansing, all cooked in one pot and with lots of spice!

You’re planning a long winter lunch or dinner with friends – what do you cook? [Hayden] There are so many quails around the region in riverside scrubs and around farmland. So, I’d cook quail marinated in fruity, smoky dried chillies, roasted over wood with sweet vegetables – butternut squash or kumara.

And drink with the above and why? [Alice] We’d drink Cambridge Road’s delicious 2014 Syrah, Di Dove Sei. A smoky and peppery red wine that’s perfect with this rich, wintry dish.

Guajillo Quail With Calabaza

8 dried guajillo chillies* 6 dried árbol chillies*
1 onion, sliced
4 cloves garlic, crushed 1⁄4 cup cider vinegar
Spices: 1 cinnamon stick, halved,
2 whole allspice, 3 cloves and 1 tablespoon of ground cumin
4 quails (you can substitute 6 chicken thighs)
Large bunch of fresh coriander
Handful of toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds)

1 butternut squash, deseeded and cut into 1cm slices
2 limes, zested
1 tablespoon of piloncillo or palm sugar

*Available from specialist stores and Moore Wilson’s.


Toast the chillies in a dry pan until fragrant then soak in boiling water. Chargrill the onion and garlic in a dry pan. Add the spices for 30 seconds, remove and grind to a coarse powder in a pestle and mortar or spice grinder. Add the chillies, onion, garlic, spices and cider vinegar to a blender and blend until smooth. Massage the marinade into the quail and set aside for a few hours.

Meanwhile, arrange the butternut on a baking sheet with a splash of olive oil. Season well with salt and pepper and sprinkle with the lime zest and piloncillo or palm sugar. Roast at 200°C for 30 – 40 minutes until tender and charred in places. Keep warm while you cook the quail.

Shake off most of the marinade and cook (ideally) the quail over a wood fire or charcoal about 18 minutes, turning frequently, alternatively you can roast in the oven at 220°C for 12 minutes. Rest for 5 minutes.

Serve the quail with the roasted butternut and scatter with toasted pepitas (pumpkin seeds) and a big handful of fresh coriander.