Kitchen Tips

Foodie destination: The Shack, Raglan

Making its presence known in its laid-back home on the Waikato coast, The Shack is the perfect place to spend a slow morning. Discover the story behind Raglan’s best spot for great food and even greater company.

By Harriet Keown
Taking its inspiration from Raglan's renowned beachside surfers' rest, The Shack seems to be an embodiment of the coastal town's unique blend of locals, visitors and break-chasing surfers. Relaxed and creative, with a menu bursting with local produce and deliciously innovative dishes, The Shack is an essential visit when in Raglan. We talk to The Shack's co-owner, Justin Thomson, about the inspiration behind their menu, their sustainability values and the secret ingredients in their ever-popular chickpea and corn fritters.

Q: Can you tell us the story behind The Shack?

Built in 1898, the building had been home to a varied succession of businesses; serving as a general store, a haberdashery, the town's barbershop and, in later years, as Raglan Mowers and Cycles, before becoming the Tongue and Groove café in 1996. Its eclectic décor and cosy sofas offered a respite from the outside world and the beginning of a genuine coffee culture in town.
It was reinvented as The Shack in 2009 and took its cue from a renowned surfers' rest at Whale Bay. The original 'shack' was a charmingly ramshackle abode owned by Professors Jim and Jane Ritchie, who generously allowed it to be used freely by numerous surfers and lifestyle cruisers from the 60s to the late 80s, where you could sit and watch the waves roll through at the famed point break, Indicators.

Q: How does your Raglan location influence your business?

Like many coastal towns, Raglan has its seasonal challenges, so securing good staff for those busy periods is possibly the most difficult part of our business. In saying that, Raglan is one of the most beautiful beach towns and when people do visit or come for work, they often end up staying longer than anticipated.

Q: Where do you find inspiration for the dishes on your menu?

We are lucky to have some amazing farmers, growers and producers in the Waikato, who are always approaching us with new ideas and tasty produce, giving our menu seasonally-driven inspiration.
We are always on the lookout for ideas, food combinations and different ways to do things. Inspiration can come from trips to Melbourne's cafe scene, a visit to a market garden, a fishing trip or dinner with our families and friends in Waingaro, where a conversation or an idea can evolve into a dish.

Q: What makes your menu memorable?

Keeping our food fresh and interesting for Raglan's eclectic mix of locals, beachgoers and travellers is key. With our menu we try to cover most of the bases, not necessarily something for 'everyone' but something that everyone can relate to, understand and feel comfortable with. We are always trying to freshen up the menu, and we aim to provide a menu offering gluten-free, dairy-free, organic and vegan choices, while also utilising as much fresh and local produce from around the area as possible.

Q: What is your favourite item on your menu and why?

That's a tough one, as our menu changes often, but one dish that keeps coming back is our chickpea and corn fritters with black bean and corn salsa, avocado, fried egg, chipotle crema and chilli jam (pictured below). It's moreish, fresh, balanced and I feel satisfied either cooking or eating it.
Try The Shack's incredible chickpea and corn fritters with black bean and corn salsa, avocado, fried egg, chipotle crema and chilli jam.

Q: What do you want The Shack to be known for?

Real food, great service and good ethical purchasing are what we'd like to be known for, also for The Shack to feel like home to customers and staff alike. We have an exceptional team working with us at The Shack; everyone is on board with our core values and we are working together to achieve them.

Q: Are there any sustainable aspects of your business that you are most proud of?

There are so many areas where improvements could be made to make the hospitality industry more sustainable. We are constantly looking at what we can do to make a difference; even the smallest changes like swapping PCU butters to hand cut butters can make a big impact. When we took over The Shack we stopped using plastic bags, disposable cutlery, straws etc, and have teamed up with some awesome companies like Innocent Packaging and Xtreme Zero Waste who offer great support and innovation.
The Shack team deserve a lot of credit; they push hard and suggest alternatives to the norm, and are always asking questions. We value their input immensely and strive to support them however we can and make their employment with us as positive and sustainable as possible.

Q: Is there anything new on the horizon for The Shack?

Not so new, but we opened our little sibling, Wallis Bistro late in 2017 and we have been busy honing our skills and sharpening our knives getting the dinner service side of life sorted.
We are always looking to improve how we operate, tweaking and tasting as we go. We will continue to build good relationships with our suppliers, growers, producers and work on becoming an even more sustainable business.
Opening hours:
Monday - Sunday, 8am - 4pm
The Shack
19 Bow Street