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The Shack is back, with a new French neighbour

After nearly two months of strengthening work, Ortega Fish Shack is back in action in Majoribanks Street, with a new neighbour, Frenchie.

Story and photos by Mark Cubey

The Ortega Fish Shack reopened on Tuesday at 16 Majoribanks Street after extensive strengthening work was completed, lifting the building out of its yellow-stickered status.

Kim van Rijn, maitre’d at Ortega alongside Davey McDonald, said the building had to be “pretty much gutted” but “a lot of effort was put into restoring the interior to its original state.”

The restaurant was immediately popular when it opened in 2009, and has stayed so ever since.

While the building work was taking place, the Fish Shack moved operations next door to 18 Majoribanks Street as Ortega Pop-up, taking over the space left vacant by the closure of Slim Davey’s Friendly Neighbourhood Saloon.

Both buildings are owned by Mark and Helen Limacher, who have been running restaurants in the neighbourhood since they opened the Roxburgh Bistro in 1992.

That restaurant won most of the awards worth winning in its 14-year history. Limacher’s next restaurant, rustic bistro Cafe Bastille, opened next door to the Roxburgh in 2001, and won the inaugural Cuisine Restaurant of the Year award.

It was sold four years later, but bought back shortly afterwards by the Limachers with their daughter Anna and her husband Davey McDonald and eventually became Ortega.

McDonald, the ebullient maitre’d who won Restaurant Personality of the Year at the nationwide 2015 Cuisine NZ Good Food Awards, was behind the western-themed bar-with-food Slim Davey’s, but closed the doors at the end of 2017, as the concept wasn’t working as well as hoped.

Structurally, though the building was good for reincarnation as a restaurant, having received restrengthening work before Slim Davey’s opened its doors in early 2016.

Now it’s going back to its bistro roots as the appropriately titled Frenchie, opening next Tuesday, 31 July, and marking the return to 18 Majoribanks Street after 15 years by chef Teresa Pert.

“It’s good timing,” says van Rijn. “We think there’s a gap for that kind of dining in Wellington. French dining – with a twist.”

Teresa Pert worked for Mark Limacher at the Roxburgh Bistro, then after several years in Europe returned to Wellington as sous chef at The Matterhorn under Sean Marshall before following him to Auckland as head chef for his two restaurants, Everybody’s and Roxy.

She returns to Wellington from Waipara in Canterbury, where she was head chef at Pegasus Bay Winery, one of the most awarded restaurants in the country.

Both McDonald and van Rijn will still be running Ortega, but two of their full-timers will be joining Pert at Frenchie. The goal is to be hands-off and let the trio steer their own course.

Pert is proposing a three-course price fixe menu for Frenchie of shared entrée, a choice of four mains and three desserts – but prospective diners will have to wait until Tuesday to see the menu.