Julie Clark: at the heart of Wellington’s restaurant scene

***Rachel Khoo would like to thank all the inspiring people who helped make the Khoollect studio a hive of creativity. Although the Khoollect studio’s doors have now closed, you can keep up with Rachel’s newest adventures on RachelKhoo.com and on Rachel’s Instagram and Facebook pages – and, continue to enjoy the Khoollect website’s stories and recipes, which will remain available.***

Julie Clark is one busy lady. Co-owner of three successful Wellington eateries, Loretta, Floriditas and Floriditas Bakery, Julie fully immerses herself in the day-to-day running of all three businesses and is found, most days, getting very hands on in the bakery. Julie spoke to Khoollect about the opening of her latest restaurant venture, Loretta, and why Wellington’s hospitality scene has captured her heart and has her firmly anchored in New Zealand.

A day in the life

How did the idea for Loretta come about?

When we set up Floriditas (sister eatery to Loretta), there were things we couldn’t do due to space constraints. So, Loretta became the name of Floriditas’ fictional younger sister – the future place we would do all these things. When the space at 181 Cuba Street came up, it was time to create Loretta. We locked ourselves away for a week with plenty of wine and came up with the menus, the business plan, and an idea of the aesthetic.

Tell us about the difference between Floriditas and Loretta – what niche does each fulfill?

Floriditas is a bistro-style eatery, offering classic dishes made with good ingredients. We take our inspiration from around the mediterranean. Loretta is more casual with a focus on vegetables, grains and whole-foods, and global inspiration.

Have you always worked in Wellington’s food industry? 

I’ve worked in the food industry in London, Auckland and now Wellington, since returning from overseas adventures. Wellington and specifically Cuba Street has a great sense of neighbourhood and is a vibrant part of the city. There’s always something going on morning, noon or night. Knowing lots of the shop and restaurant owners means there’s always the chance of a quick gossip when walking between Floriditas and Loretta. Wellingtonians have been hugely responsive to everything we have done.

Loretta Julie Clark

Tell us a bit about your path to where you are now…

I spent the ’80s living and working in London, travelling, eating, and soaking in the smells and tastes of the world. Loretta is the eighth hospitality business I’ve set up and owned.

What menu item or baked good is Loretta best known for?

Loretta is best known for its non-conventional pizzas, our baked cheesecake, and creative salads.

Are you working on any new projects right now?

I’m trying to persuade Marc that we should do a Loretta cookbook.

What do you love most about your job?

Developing new dishes, finding new suppliers and all those customers who get what we are doing, embrace it and enjoy us.

What’s your biggest achievement so far?

Working in three fast-paced businesses with more than 70 staff across the three sites. It’s challenging, demanding and so rewarding.

Best Kept Secrets

I khoollect a few… 

Old New Zealand cookbooks, mostly Woman’s Division and school publications. The earliest is from 1917. These provide a wealth of ideas for baking, preserving and tracking the history and development of New Zealand food – we have come a long way!

What’s your favourite item in your khoollection? 

A Magimix that was given to me as an engagement present many moons ago and is still going strong.

Your advice when starting a food business?

Be clear about your food vision and style. Work out what’s on the menu before you design the kitchen.

Who’s your #khoollectcrush?

That’s hard. People passionate about food and cooking are always inspirational. My current #khoollectcrushes are Chad Robertson from Tartine Bakery and Daniel Doherty from Duck & Waffle.

Loretta Julie Clark

Urban Favourites

Where do you call home and what do you love most about it?

Wellington, New Zealand. Its compactness, its waterfront and ever-changing weather.

Your favourite place for coffee?

Milk Crate if it’s too busy at Loretta or Floriditas. They make my fussy ¾ latte with skill and a smile.

Best spot for dinner?

Rosetta in Melbourne. It’s always an adventure, delivering the whole package – food, wine list, atmosphere. So many beguiling options it’s hard to choose what to eat and what wines to try.

Where do you pick up fresh produce?

Foraging out the back of Cuba Fruit Mart. It’s an Aladdin’s cave of goodies where there’s always something tasty or different to try. Sanjay and Joshna are a fountain of seasonal knowledge.

How do you spend a lazy Sunday?

A leisurely breakfast at home, pottering in the garden and reading – bliss.

Favourite green space or park?

Wellington Botanic Gardens.

If you could live anywhere else, where would it be?

The beautiful island of Crete, in Greece.

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Read about Khoollect’s visit to Loretta.

Try out Loretta’s recipe for their banana, hazelnut and chocolate toastie.

Visit Loretta and Floriditas online.

Find Loretta on Instagram.

Find Floriditas on Instagram.