Salmon off the menu at popular Auckland brunch spot after price rise of over 150%

Salmon is getting the chop at Homestead and Company due to price surges and lack of availability.

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Salmon is getting the chop at Homestead and Company due to price surges and lack of availability.

Those who go for brunch or lunch at Homestead and Company at Pah Homestead this weekend will be met with a conspicuous absence on the menu: No salmon.

Sam Mannering, owner of the popular cafe in Auckland’s Hillsborough, said he had been forced to remove the fish from the menu after wholesale prices surged up by over 150%.

Homestead and Company owner Sam Mannering said customers would not be happy to pay prices high enough to cover the current salmon costs.

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Homestead and Company owner Sam Mannering said customers would not be happy to pay prices high enough to cover the current salmon costs.

Homestead and Company’s house-cured and smoked salmon usually features on dishes including Eggs Benedict, which Mannering said was its biggest seller. It is also made into rillettes which are served on the brunch menu with kūmara croquettes and poached eggs and as part of an antipasti platter on the lunch menu.

Fresh pin-boned salmon used to wholesale for around $ 30 a kilo, Mannering said. It had been “escalating exponentially over the last month” and was now over $ 80.

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“We can not afford to take any risks,” said Mannering. “[I could say] ok, I’m going to put it up from now on, but what does ‘from now on’ mean? It might double again in another two weeks. ”

Prices of goods like eggs, butter and bacon had also been rising steadily, he said, but he could no longer pass the cost of salmon on to diners.

“Salmon has become a little bit like chicken and people take it for granted,” he said “They’re not going to be willing to pay above a certain price.”

Eggs Benedict is already the most expensive dish on Homestead and Company’s brunch menu at $ 26. At the current price of salmon, Mannering said he would have to put the price up to about $ 32 just to cover costs.

“The mid-20s I can get away with, but that $ 30 threshold for brunch is just too far,” he said, especially considering the current high cost of living.

A side of hot-smoked salmon, usually $ 7, would go up to at least $ 15.

“You’re not going to pay $ 15 for a side.”

The exceptional price rise followed New Zealand King Salmon, the world’s largest salmon producer, dumping about 1300 tonnes of fish in landfill sites after warming sea temperatures and a hot summer led to salmon dying before it could be fished.

The decrease in stock of King Salmon brands including Regal and Southern Ocean was also causing lack of availability.

On Thursday, Homestead and Company’s wholesale distributor Service Foods was showing no fresh salmon available.

There was some frozen but Mannering said he would rather not serve salmon than work with frozen: “It just turns to mush.”

Homestead and Company is located at the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough.

Peter Meecham

Homestead and Company is located at the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough.

He could also purchase pre-smoked salmon but said that would defeat the purpose. “Smoking is as much part of our story as anything. You’re paying premium dollars. We can do that ourselves and not pay premium. ”

Instead, for the foreseeable future Homestead and Company would be serving gemfish. Also known as silver kingfish or southern kingfish, gemfish is a “meaty” white fish with a similar consistency to hapuka, Mannering said.

“I first came across it from the Matakana Smoke House before we started smoking ourselves,” he said. “I’ve always been really fond of it.”

Homestead and Company's fish rillettes, made with smoked gemfish, served with k mmara croquettes and poached egg.

Sam Mannering

Homestead and Company’s fish rillettes, made with smoked gemfish, served with k mmara croquettes and poached egg.

Gemfish cured and smoked a little differently to salmon, so the Homestead and Company kitchen team had been playing around with recipes for a few days, and were “really chuffed” with the outcome.

“Salmon is quite an oily fish, there’s quite a lot of fat on it,” Mannering said. “Gemfish does not have that. I think that makes it, in a way, more attractive. ”

He said there was some “snobbery” around smoked white fish in New Zealand that he hoped to help people overcome as they discovered alternatives to salmon.

“People seem to love it so far,” he said. “They haven’t asked where the salmon is, which is interesting.”

He would like to keep gemfish on permanently, but understood brunch habits could be hard to kick.

“That’s the gamble we’re playing now,” Mannering said. “If the customer wants salmon they have to pay the price. That’s the dance. “

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