#1 in a very, very occasional series reviewing roadside takeaways.
Otoko Espresso: Find me, it’s worth it.
So reads the A-board on the Haast Pass (Highway 6)
I can’t resist that kind of foodie temptation. Moments later we find her. (“Duuuude: it’s as if she parked in an obvious place. Like, totally, as if she meant us to like, ur, totally find her.” These were the sort of terms the young chaps in front of me when I rocked up at the hatch. Tsk, backpackers today…)
Whitebait Patties anyone?
When in Haast, do as the Haastans do I say. So we’ve here we are off the main road in a wee township to find the Otoko Espresso trailer and now we see if it is indeed worth it.
Foodie heaven on tiny wheels.
Whitebait are weeny fishes that most folk in the UK would have served breadcrumbed and deep fried. Mmmm. On the south west coast of the South Island, your New Zealand gourmet will beat a brace of eggs, then mix in a handful of whitebait. Chuck the lot into a greased pan pat down a few times. A word on egg volumes. Not omlette quantities. No. Just enough to bind your little white fishes together. Squish them down a little more. Brown ever-so-slightly, flip, fry off and serve on buttered white bread with a wedge of lemon.
Yum. (Small Beers approve too.)
Quite possibly the smallest enclosed mobile takeaway in the south, towed by a unique early SWB Land Rover. You will note from the piccies that the colour scheme of the Landie is anti-camo, whereas the trailer is metal sheeting au-natural, garnished with a set of antlers.
It’s often the case it’s best to skim a few details for a good story? Is it the same vibe for street eats? Looking at the wheeled shack, I raise an eyebrow for food poisoning, let alone road worthiness. Fear not, it’s a “reproduction”. Clean as a whistle inside and equipped with a natty espresso machine. (In India we became wilfully blind, not noticing hygiene and safety misdemeanours. No more, we’re all over it again. Even in laid back NZ.) Moving on from environmental health checks I note the proprietor’s laptop and enquire whether wifi was on offer. “Dipinds uff ah paak up close to the bickpickers place” she offers with a characteristic Kiwi-dry response, disarming my attempt at tongue-in-cheek humour.
You will also note from a photos that it’s a fully functional drive through to boot. The hatchway being perfectly sized/located for serving folk in pickup trucks, de rigeur local wheels.
And a word on product, sales & marketing for all you British roadside food stall types. Fresh, local produce works every time. Surely a winning formula in any land? Keep it simple. And if you’re not making a beeline for local, then go classical. Classical with quality. IE: A really decent fresh cup of coffee. Not some pokey machine puking brown snot. Then, make passers by curious: “Find Me! It’s worth it.” Brilliant! And – as a finishing touch here – sell the food with a smile and a twinkle in your eye. Hey, good honest food & good service: it might catch on…
Whilst I savour my whitebait, Gilly sets about her top notch flat-white (as they call a milky coffee here). Good coffee and/or some flash-fried-fresh-fish**: what’s not to love. It is worth it*.
Find Otoko on facebook
And now some small print...
* This mobile shack is 12,000 miles from the UK. Directions: once on the South Island take route 6 to Haast and drive around till you spot the Landie. Simples.
** Espresso and whitebait patties sold separately. Just to be clear. It’s not some Heston-esque new food combo. Although…