Floriditas and Loretta – Two Cuba Street Culinary Landmarks
Three people and two restaurants have done a lot over the past decade to change the way people eat out in Wellington. We talk to James Pedersen – joint owner of Floriditas and Loretta – about the trio’s approach, and how they select wines for their lists.
Was it always your dream to own your own restaurants?
Most likely, yes – especially after my father dissuaded me from going into advertising, even though he spent a life time in that industry. One of his rare pieces of advice was to never go into advertising.
How did Floriditas, and more recently Loretta, come about, and with whom?
Floriditas was the result of Julie Clark, Marc Weir and myself ... plus a dose of determination to do something different in Wellington. Then about a decade later we felt the ground had shifted and it was time to do something different again – and that's how Loretta came about.
Please describe each of your restaurants in a sentence.
Floriditas has become a classic everyday place (which is what we had intended) where you can happily have a great coffee first thing or a fantastic steak that night. Loretta is more 21st Century hippie – more vegetarian, more grains, more accessible. All the wines are on by the glass or not at all
Running a restaurant is a tough job. What makes it all worthwhile?
When you get it right and the customers leave having had a great time.
What constitutes a good wine list to you?
A good wine list should have equal parts consideration and passion. Consideration for your audience – don't completely spook them, offer them some wines they're familiar with ... but then that’s when the passion comes in – don't make it boring and entirely predictable. There's nothing worse than a list that has totally sold its soul, there’s too much good wine out there for that. It's always great to read a list that reflects the nature of the restaurant, that's consistent with what they are trying to achieve.
What is your personal favourite food and wine match?
Not an easy question – so many suspects lining up. If there was only one, then it would have to be sirloin steak and barbaresco.
What is the signature dish at each restaurant, and what is your perfect wine match for it?
We've never really had signature dishes. However, one of the best matches we've ever had at Floriditas was (and still is) Pedro Ximenez Sherry and dark chocolate fruit cake. A customer once said, “I wasn't sure if I was eating the sherry or drinking the fruit cake."
Loretta does a fantastic wood roasted chicken which goes really well with chardonnay and if I had to choose one, it would the Vasse Felix Heytesbury Chardonnay … delicious.
Can we ask you to match two wines supplied by Planet Wine to two dishes on your menus?
I'm a great fan of the Anselmi San Vincenzo which goes really well with the bowl of clams that we do at Loretta . Then there's the amazing Barolo Chinato, a more intriguing wine you would be hard placed to find. It might go with some of our chocolate based desserts, but we are delighted to have it on by the glass – it's simply the best thing to finish a meal.
Which are currently the most popular drinks at the Floriditas and Loretta?
Craft beer is moving super-fast at Loretta at the moment, along with prosecco and rosé, both very strong right now. At Floriditas we always move through a lot pinot noir and a load of great chardonnay – often the most expensive glass pour will outsell the least expensive.
How did your relationship with Martin and Planet Wine begin?
Ahh … that would be telling wouldn't it. No, seriously, I first met Martin at a WSET diploma lecture. He was giving the lecture by the way.
What is it that you appreciate about Planet Wine as a supplier?
That they care about sourcing interesting wines that work in the restaurant environment.