The Gables is New Zealand’s oldest operating restaurant, built from pit-sawn Kauri in 1847 on whalebone foundations. Back then, Russell or Kororāreka as it was known was nothing like the charming seaside town of today. Without laws Russell was dubbed ‘The Hell Hole of the Pacific’, a town full of come-ashore whalers on the hunt for rum and women.
The Gables was built by Joseph England, an immigrant shoemaker who purchased the land for 30 pounds from Moko, a Maori chief. Since then it has had many owners, some more respectable than others. Current owners Robert and Jenny Loosley bought the building in 1980 and hold a great collection of old articles and documents related to its chequered history, including its original deed of sale. In the mid 1800’s the Gables was most likely a brothel and after 1860 was a shop, bake house, and Salvation Army Boys Home until it reverted again to providing for the needs (albeit different needs) of travellers.
Now operated as a restaurant The Gables has built a reputation with foreigners and New Zealanders alike enjoying local seafood and New Zealand fare in one of the countries top summer destinations. With Kauri paneling, open fires and original maps, prints and early photographs the Gables retains its old world charm. The beams are crooked, the floor slopes, but the building survives – the only witness, together with its more spiritual neighbors (many locals consider it to be haunted), The Christ Church and Catholic Mission, of Russell in the bawdy 1840’s. The Gables is now listed as a Heritage building by the New Zealand Historic Places Trust.
In November 2009, Nick Loosley brought the operation of the restaurant back into the family. Fine food with a relaxed atmosphere is the order today for the 1847 landmark on the picturesque Russell Waterfront. Head Chef Michael Oliver heads up a strong and international team. Michael’s food emphasises fresh, local and seasonal produce which gives it an unmistakable Northland touch. Paul Graham leads a young and dynamic team of floor staff who offer relaxed, yet professional and personalised service.