Salmon on popular Auckland brunch menu after price rises over 150%

Salmon is in the spotlight at Homestead and Company due to skyrocketing prices and lack of availability.

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Salmon is in the spotlight at Homestead and Company due to skyrocketing prices and lack of availability.

Those who go for brunch or lunch at Homestead and Company in Pah Homestead this weekend will be greeted by a glaring absence from the menu: No salmon.

Sam Mannering, owner of popular Hillsborough cafe in Auckland, said he was forced to remove fish from the menu after wholesale prices rose by more than 150%.

Homestead and Company owner Sam Mannering said customers would not be happy to pay prices high enough to cover current salmon costs.

Provided

Homestead and Company owner Sam Mannering said customers would not be happy to pay prices high enough to cover current salmon costs.

Homestead and Company’s house-cured and smoked salmon typically features on dishes such as Eggs Benedict, which Mannering said was its biggest seller. It is also made into rillettes which are served on the brunch menu with kūmara croquettes and poached eggs and as part of an antipasto platter on the lunch menu.

Boneless fresh salmon was sold wholesale for around $30 a kilo, Mannering said. It had “increased exponentially over the past month” and was now above $80.

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“We can’t afford to take risks,” Mannering said. “[I could say] ok, i’ll implement it from now on, but what does “from now on” mean? It could still double in two weeks.

Prices for items like eggs, butter and bacon had also risen steadily, he said, but he could no longer pass on the cost of salmon to diners.

“Salmon has become a bit like chicken and people take it for granted,” he said. “They won’t be willing to pay above a certain price.”

Eggs Benedict are already the most expensive item on Homestead and Company’s brunch menu at $26. At current salmon prices, Mannering said he would have to raise the price to around $32 just to cover costs.

“Mid-20s, I can get away with it, but that $30 threshold for brunch is just too far out,” he said, especially given today’s high cost of living.

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A side of hot smoked salmon, usually $7, will go up to at least $15.

“You’re not going to pay $15 for a side.”

The exceptional price rise followed New Zealand King Salmon, the world’s largest salmon producer, dumping around 1,300 tonnes of fish in landfills after warming sea temperatures and a hot summer that killed salmon before it can be fished.

Dwindling inventory of King Salmon brands, including Regal and Southern Ocean, was also causing a lack of availability.

On Thursday, Homestead and Company’s wholesale distributor Service Foods showed no fresh salmon available.

There was frozen, but Mannering said he’d rather not serve salmon than work with frozen: “It turns into mush.”

He could also buy pre-smoked salmon, but said that would defeat the purpose. “Smoking is as much a part of our history as anything else. You pay the premium dollar. We can do it ourselves and not pay a premium.

Homestead and Company is located at the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough.

Pierre Meecham

Homestead and Company is located at the Pah Homestead in Hillsborough.

Instead, for the foreseeable future, Homestead and Company would serve gems. Also known as silver trevally or southern trevally, the gem is a “meaty” white fish with a consistency similar to hapuka, Mannering said.

“I first met him from the Matakana Smoke House before we started smoking ourselves,” he said. “I’ve always really liked that.”

The gem fish dried and smoked a little differently than salmon, so the Homestead and Company kitchen team had been playing around with recipes for a few days and were “really thrilled” with the outcome.

Homestead and Company fish rillettes, made with smoked gems, served with kūmara croquettes and a poached egg.

Sam Manning

Homestead and Company fish rillettes, made with smoked gems, served with kūmara croquettes and a poached egg.

“Salmon is a pretty fatty fish, it’s got a lot of fat in it,” Mannering said. “Gemfish doesn’t have that. I think that makes it, in a way, more appealing.

He said there was a certain “snobbery” around smoked white fish in New Zealand which he hoped would help people overcome by learning about alternatives to salmon.

“People seem to like it so far,” he said. “They didn’t ask where the salmon was, which is interesting.”

He’d like to keep the Gems permanently, but the understood brunch habits might be hard to let go.

“That’s the bet we’re playing now,” Mannering said. “If the customer wants salmon, he has to pay the price. It’s the dance.