Next door to a Blacksmiths yoga studio is the tiny kitchen where chef Aaron Stobbs works his magic.
Te Aroha Place is his labour of love. Word is starting to spread about this cafe by day and Spanish tapas bar by night, and as the temperature rises the outdoor-dining venue is only going to get busier.
It is very relaxed, very casual and very comfortable. There are no airs and graces here and the feeling is one of dining at a friend’s place.
The courtyard area seats 24. Stobbs enjoys getting to know his customers and is happy to discuss the menu and customise it for special events. He refuses to move diners on to free up tables. If you book a table, it’s yours for the night if you want it.
Stobbs is a Belmont boy who developed a love of cooking while working as a kitchenhand at Madison Motor Inn Newcastle at the age of 17. He completed his apprenticeship in Cairns, specialising in French Polynesian cuisine, and went on to work at Wandin Valley Estate and Chateau Elan in the Hunter Valley. He also branched out to corporate catering.
Keen to broaden his culinary horizons, though, Stobbs accepted an executive chef role on the Canary Islands off the coast of Morocco. He met his partner, Romy, at Santa Catalina Gran Canaria and they are the proud parents of newborn daughter Yaspy.
The Canary Islands experience was memorable and educational but, as the saying goes, there’s no place like home.
“My decision to return home was to give back what I have learned over the years. I have a great passion for cooking and love to see people enjoying great food,” Stobbs told Food & Wine.
“Te Aroha Place is all about good food done right. It’s about the dishes being made by hand in a traditional Spanish way and giving customers value for money as well as a taste of tapas bar food which cannot be found in our local area.”
The menu is a mix of Spanish and French Polynesian cuisine and fuses traditional and modern cooking methods.
“It’s all served to the middle of the table and is a social way to bring family and friends together. The journey to Spain has taught me a lot about how food should be enjoyed in an open and relaxed atmosphere.”