KEVIN STENT / Stuff
Entertainer Mervin Singham with his favorite starter – seared prawn tails, garlic butter sauce, lemon, Italian parsley and pappardelle.
Human rights lawyer Mervin Singham is chief executive of the Department of Ethnic Communities, where he promotes people from all walks of life, in science, technology and agriculture. Singham is also an artist and is launching his own exhibition with 14 paintings which he says will “disturb” at Wellington’s Exhibitions Gallery in August. ‘Reverence’ reflects respect for people, the world and the environment which he says ‘continues to go through unprecedented and extraordinary times’. We caught up with Singham in downtown Wellington where he explains why the Ortega Fish Shack is one of his favorite restaurants.
Came across Ortega Fish Shack one day after watching a movie. I was walking around Wellington and came across the restaurant on Majoribanks Street. That was over 10 years ago. It was lovely, I walked into this really warm and inviting environment. The food was amazing, and I’ve been back since.
I think Ortega advertises Wellington, with its combination of tradition and subtle innovation. It’s a small space, but it creates a kind of dynamic space where everyone is together.
I was born in Malaysia and moved to New Zealand 36 years ago, and lived in Wellington for about 18 years. Malaysians are crazy about seafood. So finding a restaurant dedicated to seafood is amazing.
* My favorite table: Sarah Meikle on “soul food” at Field & Green
* My favorite table: Trevor Mallard loves the date scones at Miss Fortune’s
* My favorite table: Raechal Ferguson
The fact that sometimes the menu changes adds an element of surprise. They know which dishes to keep and which things to change. It’s creative. They keep coming up with surprising new dishes, different flavor combinations.
As an artist, anything expressive in this way where it’s a mixture of different things, different ideas, flavors, all of that fascinates me. That’s what keeps me coming back.
The staff are really professional, friendly and make you feel at home. The staff always remember you which is wonderful – they really make you feel welcome.
When I think of Ortega, celebrations come to mind. I think of champagne, of celebrating birthdays, of celebrating events, of things that have happened at every stage of life. And just amazing food as the centerpiece of our celebration. I like the warm and friendly atmosphere that Ortega offers.
There’s upstairs and downstairs, it’s small, there’s a little bar where you can sit and people watch while you dine before getting your table. You can look down the street and see people walking by and doing all that stuff. It’s just that food atmosphere.
I have two favorite dishes at Ortega: one is shrimp cooked in a creamy sauce – it’s a starter. The other is an octopus dish. It’s spicy, with chorizo. As I described, these classic cooking methods bring together all these different mixtures from different parts of the world. And the food is really first class.
– As told to Bronte Metekingi.