Nestled among the vines inside the northern Napier settlement of Eskdale lies a place where history meets modernity. The vision of Cone & Flower bloomed into reality thanks to two brothers who both share a passion for modern brewing and winemaking.
But their approach to making beer and wine comes from another world and sets them apart from New Zealand’s traditional brewing industry.
Born and raised in Auckland, brothers Christopher and Philip grew up in a household where both food and drink were occasions to be celebrated.
As they grew older Christopher took the road towards crafting beer, while Philip’s fascination lay with wine. Chris noticed that while Hawke’s Bay is iconic for its wine sector, the beer market was lacking.
In 2003, Chris travelled to the UK and across Europe where he worked in different bars, breweries and boats. He also joined Philip in Germany for a stint in grape picking.
After travelling across Europe, Chris’s passion continued to grow, resulting in him taking up a six-month Brewing Diploma in Sunderland in the northern UK.
He then moved home with a goal to open a brewery in Auckland, but the cost of starting up in a busy city proved to be on the expensive side, so he joined Philip who was expanding Petane Vineyards in Eskdale, who suggested he start up the brewery on-site.
The brothers wanted a name that reflected the European influence and history of beer on New Zealand, and so the name Zeelandt was born, followed by the creation of Cone & Flower.
Both Chris and Phillip brought chef Sebastian Lisanti on board to zest up the menu, which is now one of artistic creativity and nothing like Hawke’s Bay bars have seen before.
Born in Argentina, Sebastian travelled the world working in the realm of fine dining. Landing in New Zealand, he continued to work in top restaurants including Huka Lodge in Taupo, Cape Kidnappers, and Boulcott St Restaurant in Wellington.
Upon starting at Cone & Flower, rather than follow the tradition of a ‘beer, burger and chips’, the trio decided to keep their unique flow, using Sebastian’s expertise and cultural influence from his home, travel and fine-dining background.
“I try to play around with flavours that aren’t very common and that people aren’t used to, like grilled peach, King Prawns with Mexican chillies.
“The menu changes with the season and also what the growers have available. Sometimes something might be on the menu for a month to three months, perhaps only three weeks – depending on the availability of produce.”
Sebastian makes sure that all produce used in the kitchen is as locally sourced as possible. It’s not uncommon for locals to call-in and drop off a bag of produce straight from their backyard – and Sebastian never turns it down.
“Pretty much everything we use comes from either Bay View or Eskdale, and if we can get organic or free range then we go for it.”
Each staff member at Cone & Flower is an expert in their own field and Chris says there’s one thing they like to give their clientele before they walk out the door.
“We want people to leave here with some sort of experience they hope to remember, whether it’s about the beer, the wine, a different cut of meat or the way something’s cooked. We want them to leave this place with a “wow factor”.