Gastronomic success where once 'nothing has worked'

Wanaka's Bistro Gentil owner Luc Bohyn. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
Wanaka's Bistro Gentil owner Luc Bohyn. Photo by Lucy Ibbotson.
In just two years, Bistro Gentil has established itself as one of Wanaka's finest eateries, but owner Luc Bohyn once had very different plans for the place.

''I bought this with the idea of not having a restaurant here,'' Mr Bohyn says.

Nor did he want anything else setting up in the then vacant Golf Course Rd building.

His priority was to maintain a peaceful setting for his semi-rural home situated directly behind the building, which overlooks Lake Wanaka and its surrounding mountains.

Other restaurant businesses had already come and gone at the site and Mr Bohyn was repeatedly warned that ''nothing has worked'' there.

But fortunately for food-lovers, he eventually decided to resurrect the venue as a restaurant, this time with modern French-inspired lunch and dinner menus and several points of difference which have proven popular with patrons.

The interior of Bistro Gentil, in Wanaka. Photo supplied.
The interior of Bistro Gentil, in Wanaka. Photo supplied.
Bistro Gentil - or its shortened ''BG'' for those who struggle with the French pronunciation - claims to be the first restaurant in the South Island equipped with Enomatic self-serve wine-dispensing machines, which preserve the qualities of a wine once a bottle is opened.

BG offers complimentary samplings of its award-winning ''grand cru'' olive oils from Provence, where Belgian-born Mr Bohyn owns an olive grove.

The menus combine imported food with New Zealand produce cooked ''French-style''.

While BG's creative cuisine has earned the restaurant a fine-dining reputation in town, that is ''not exactly'' what Mr Bohyn is going for.

''I want it to be a casual place where people feel like they can come in jeans and they don't need to dress up and they can just come and enjoy.''

Mr Bohyn is an art lover and has decked the BG walls out with work for sale from world-renowned artists, while an outdoor sculpture garden - complete with a petanque court - is being expanded over summer.

BG has a covered terrace for taking in the lake views, with roll-away plastic awnings for the summer months and large heaters, cosy sheepskin seat covers and woolly blankets for cooler weather.

After the recent departure of the restaurant's founding chef Phil Watkins, Mario Rodriguez has stepped into the head chef role, while award-winning Whare Kea chef James Stapley will come on board in April as executive chef.

Having exceeded all expectations for his restaurant business, Mr Bohyn has no regrets over his decision to open BG in front of his house.

''The only consequence is that I had to move out. It's too close. I need a bit of distance.''

• The Otago Daily Times was provided a complimentary meal by Bistro Gentil.





180g fresh cod
20g salt
Rub cod with salt and cure for 24 hours in the refrigerator
100g flour
100ml water
10g oil
Pinch of salt
2 eggs
250g potatoes (cooked and mashed)



Cook cod in boiling water for 5 minutes then strain and mince. Bring water and oil to the boil. Add flour and stir until thick. Whisk in one egg at a time until combined. Combine mix with the cooked potato and cod. Let set in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Spoon chunks into hot oil and fry until golden and crispy. These are served with a lemon and herb mayonnaise at Bistro Gentil.


Add a Comment