Business Profiles

Indigo Restaurant – adding spice to business success

Kingfisher is still the number-one beer match with a vindaloo at Napier’s Indigo Restaurant but it has a spicy point of difference that keeps the business as fresh as the local ingredients it uses.

Indigo does the common curries like butter chicken, rogan josh and tandoori better than most but it stands out for its huge menu using local fresh meats, produce and wine and beer.

On top of this, Indigo has become widely known as the home of New Zealand’s – if not the southern hemisphere’s – largest whiskey selection, over 800 and counting.

The differences at Indigo don’t stop there. At the helm is 25-year-old Shaun Bates, who started as a dishwasher at the Hastings Street restaurant six years ago and has worked his way from cleaning plates to waiting tables, to Maître D to restaurant manager and part- owner for the last 18 months.

As Shaun says, “we’re not an Indian restaurant, we’re a restaurant that serves Indian food.”

Shaun had no hospitality experience when he first started working for founder and business partner Paul Anderson, an expat Brit, who having moved to Napier wanted to recreate the dining experiences he enjoyed on over 35 business visits to India.

Although Shaun was a novice, he was prepared to work hard from the bottom up; it was a case of learning all aspects of the hospitality industry.

“Hospitality is hard work; it’s seven days a week and I had to learn from the ground up, and Paul has given me some great opportunities.”

Indigo was established by Paul and wife Nichola with a desire for Hawke’s Bay people to love authentic Indian food as much as they do, with a mix of fusion both in food and drinks.

“There’s a perception that all restaurants in India play Bollywood music, the waiting staff wear saris and there’s elephant pictures on the walls, but that is far from reality.”

Paul didn’t want Indigo to be known as a curry house that serves vindaloo and Kingfisher beer; although for diehards, it’s still their go-to. He instead wanted to spice it up with a large menu using fresh local ingredients, as well as display his collection and portray his love of Whiskey and other spirits. “Most curry houses have beef, lamb, chicken and goat, but we wanted to showcase other local fare such as duck, salmon and crayfish to create a fusion-style menu.

“Paul has a passion for whiskey and other spirits and thought that this might provide a further point of difference. We have 800 whiskeys including many rare drams, 50-odd American bourbons and 75 gins, among others.

Shaun says a popular way to experience Indian cuisine, other than your usual favourites, is to try the thali menu, which is a selection of eight small plates.

“We were one of the first in Napier to introduce the thali menu, it’s the best way to introduce people to new flavours.”

The downstairs dining area caters for 75 guests while the upstairs banquet and function room caters for 50 and doubles as the Amber Bar, named after the colour of whiskey. Amber is also the colour of beer and Indigo boasts a large range of local beers such as Giant, Brave, and its own craft beer range, Napier Brewing Company, brewed at the Westshore Inn.

Shaun is always looking to grow the business and says the introduction of takeaways, both pick-up and delivery across Hawke’s Bay, has been hugely successful. Most takeaway food businesses keep to a smaller confined delivery area, but Indigo’s special food containers that keep food hot for up to an hour enable deliveries to Hastings and Havelock North.

“We have an easy to use App and website and with a team of four drivers, we can deliver to most places across Hawke’s Bay.”

Shaun sees further expansion within the Indigo brand, some remaining a secret at this stage. Catering has been a recent addition that has worked well for the business community.

Both Paul and Shaun have a firm belief in supporting the local community. They do this via a wide range of sponsorships, from the Hawks basketball team through to local clubs and schools.

Although Napier is a tourism town, Shaun and Paul know that it’s supporting locals that makes the business a year-round success.

“It’s important for us to contribute to the community and we do this by supporting a wide range of sports teams and schools, and we know that in turn they will support Indigo.”

Shaun and Paul are also equally committed to looking after their staff and families. They’ve seen the bad press about poor working conditions for migrant workers and have taken a leadership role along with Napier MP Stuart Nash to ensure workers aren’t taken advantage of within the hospitality sector.

“All our staff are paid above the minimum wage and we provide a serviced house for our chefs. It’s not acceptable to exploit migrant workers and we will do everything we can to stamp it out.”

Check out Indigo next time you’re looking for a unique dining experience, or find their App at the Apple or Google App store and order in.