Chilly diners get blanket coverage

Keeping warm are (from left) Wai Dining Group co-owner Jan Rae, Polly McGuckin, of Exquisite Wool Blankets, Public Kitchen and Bar manager Heidi Thomson and Domenic Mondillo, of Mondillo Wines. Photo by Jackie Gay/Stillvision.
Keeping warm are (from left) Wai Dining Group co-owner Jan Rae, Polly McGuckin, of Exquisite Wool Blankets, Public Kitchen and Bar manager Heidi Thomson and Domenic Mondillo, of Mondillo Wines. Photo by Jackie Gay/Stillvision.
When it came to warming up Queenstown's Public Kitchen and Bar over winter, the solution was simple - New Zealand wool.

And it all fell into place after Domenic Mondillo was tackled by restaurant manager Heidi Thomson about ways to promote Mondillo Wines and also how to keep customers warm.

Mr Mondillo's wife Ally had been looking for wool blankets to put their branding on and use as promotional items for clients and overseas visitors and met Polly McGuckin at Exquisite Wool Blankets.

Mrs McGuckin, who shares her family's passion for the wool industry, set up Exquisite Wool Blankets five years ago.

The business is part of Yaldhurst Wools Ltd, the company which was established by her father John Betts.

Mrs Mondillo said it seemed a ''perfect opportunity'' to promote New Zealand wool, while keeping Public Kitchen and Bar customers warm, and continuing their joint beliefs in sustainability and using New Zealand-made products.

Public Kitchen and Bar co-owner Jan Rae was also sold on the idea, saying the business sourced its meat, vegetables, wine and beer as locally as possible.

''It didn't make sense to use a fabric made offshore when we have beautiful New Zealand wool grown on our doorstep,'' she said.

It was naturally renewable, biodegradable, recyclable, sustainable and extremely warm.

''Our customers . . . will be extremely happy either inside or outside under these beautiful wool blankets this winter and on summer alpine evenings,'' she said.

It was also hoped to sell the blankets to those who ''can't bear to give them back'' and wanted to take them home as a memory of New Zealand, she said.

Mrs McGuckin described it as a ''great move'', saying she had always been frustrated by the polar-fleece blankets offered for outdoor dining when she was in Queenstown.

New Zealand had always been renowned for being a wool-growing country and she believed Public Kitchen was ''leading the way'' with using a natural fibre and sustainable product.

Her business had grown each year as people were becoming more aware about natural fibres and wanting to use wool more often.

Mrs McGuckin also has the rights to import woollen caskets from the United Kingdom and that business was also growing, she said.

Wool Week is being celebrated from May 26 to June 2, with various events throughout the week promoting the fibre through fashion and interior design.

More than 30 designers have committed to celebrating wool in their retail locations around the country.