Modern Maori Quartet / Chaophraya

Having enjoyed their first and highly successful run at Edinburgh Fringe, the Modern Maori Quartet is officially in love with Auld Reekie. A feeling that’s definitely mutual.

Best described as the Maori Rat pack, it’s old school entertainment and killer harmonies. Their inspiration: New Zealand’s show-bands of the 60s and 70s, which merged music with the Maori tradition of storytelling.

  

But the most important ingredient is “aroha” the Maori word for love. For that’s what the Quartet is all about: a love of music, a love of tradition, and a love of gathering friends and family (whanau).

Speaking of which, we decided to gather the boys – James, Matariki, Tainui & Rutene – and show them why Thai Restaurant Chaophraya is one of our firm favourites.

 

ENTREE

Not only does this rooftop restaurant offer sumptuous atmosphere and stunning views, the food is also rather fabulous. It’s an experience made even more special if you’re dining in the “glass box”, which boasts Edinburgh Castle as its backdrop.

But to give our guests the perfect introduction to Chaophraya, we immediately ordered three of the Maeklong Platters. Well, we say immediately, but what we really mean is: around the second bottle of sauvignon.

Anyhoo … this wonderful selection boasts chicken satay skewers (the sauce is truly exceptional by the way), pork dumplings, chicken spring rolls, sweetcorn cakes and Thai vegetable tacos.

Ironically, this being an interview and all, the arrival of the first course rendered our entire table silent until every scrap of food had disappeared. Suffice to say our dinner guests were extremely impressed.

  

Social Bitches:
How did the Modern Maori Quartet come into being?

James:
When we graduated from drama school, we didn’t have a lot of work, so the idea spawned from trying to stay busy between acting gigs. We had no blueprint, no nothing, but even at our first rehearsal there was a magical sense of ease.

Rick:
We applied for arts funding, and got it. Though the suits we bought with our own money. Then when we did our first show, and the response was amazing. I just thought: this thing is definitely going again.

Social Bitches:
Clearly you were right. Five years later, you’re traveling the world and getting rave reviews, but what’s the one thing you never want to forget?

James:
The aroha, definitely. Aroha for the work, and the aroha that people take from it.

Rutene:
The way you approach people, that’s something we will always hold on to. No matter where we are in the world, we bring the love and respect that was taught to us by the people from home.

Rick:
There’s a saying that’s very strong in Maoridom: You can’t know where you’re going, unless you know where you come from. That for us is what it’s all about.

  

Social Bitches:
Tainui & Rutene, you’re both new to the Quartet. How is it joining such an established group?

Tainui:
We focused hard on learning the harmonies and lyrics, but we soon realised it’s actually about the banter that exists between songs. Though unfortunately we had to learn that in front of an audience (laughs).

Rutene:
Yeah, work the music as tight as you want, but if the rapport isn’t there, you lose the essence of the show.

 

MAIN COURSE

As Chaophraya regulars, our advice when it comes to the main course is simple: whatever and how much you order, make sure you pair it with the coconut rice, it’s absolutely incredible.

  

With this in mind, we also highly recommend the Lamb Teriyaki with seasonal vegetables and a trio of Thai sauces – just sublime – along with the equally delicious Massaman lamb curry with coconut milk and cashew nuts. Fab-u-lous!

But the dish us Social Bitches think might just be best in show: the Crispy pork belly with Thai basil, sugar snap peas and fresh chillies. Simply stunning.

Meanwhile the boys of Modern Maori Quartet are convinced: the Spicy fried rice with chicken and basil, and topped with a fried egg is the meal that will really have you feeling the love.

  

Social Bitches:
Is your show similar to the original Maori show-bands of the 60s and 70s?

Rick:
Definitely. We were very conscious of the greats who came before us, so we’ve tried not to reinvent the wheel.

Tainui:
We’ve got the same energy and quirks, but we’ve stripped back the sound a little. Back in the day show-bands were all multi-instrumentalists.

Rick:
Like the Maori Volcanics, those guys could play four instruments apiece. So a woodwind and brass instrument each, as well as the guitar and drum kit. Now that’s something to strive towards!

Social Bitches:
A lot of them were they self-taught, weren’t they?

Tainui:
Yeah, they didn’t have access to music lessons. Often one cousin would learn to play, then teach the rest of the family. Pretty much a case of ‘Here bro, have a turn.’

Social Bitches:
In the show there’s a lot of flirting with “the ladies,” just banter or are you trying to tell us something?

Rick:
We’re hot-blooded Maori men you know! (Laughs) But seriously, the references to the ladies, it’s our genre. We sing romantic songs, that’s our act.

Tainui:
But I think most of the attention we get comes from middle-aged women, it’s more that they find us cute.

  

Social Bitches:
Have there been any propositions?

James:
There’s been a few. Back in New Zealand after each show, we usually get at least three women emailing us and asking ‘so … what’s Matariki up to?’

[ The boys laugh ]

Rick:
It’s kind of awkward. I’m trying to get people excited about love, not about me!

Rutene:
Yeah, but a Maori in a suit singing a love ballad, it’s bound to get hot under some collars.

Social Bitches:
Speaking of romance, what do you think of our fair city?

Tainui:
Love it, such a beautiful place. The people are really lovely too. We’re already making plans to come back next year.

James:
There’s a lot of aroha here, and strong sense of whanau. Everyone should visit.

Rutene:
It’s cool being in a town where there’s 3,000 shows, and you’re surrounded by people who love the arts.

Tainui:
It’s like a theatre themepark for adults.

Social Bitches:
We couldn’t agree more!

 

DESSERT

Come our final course, we were a table ever so slightly divided. While Matariki was wowed by the Coconut panna cotta with a lime and lemongrass sorbet and light berry compote, everyone else went in a very different direction.

  

Allow us to introduce you to the utter joy that is the Chocolate Bombe, with Thai Whiskey ice cream, honey and toasted popcorn centre. This is a dessert that guarantees you will be moaning, almost inappropriately, with pleasure.

Though what really pushes this dish so wonderfully over the edge, is the hot caramel sauce that’s poured on top. Suddenly you have visual drama as the chocolate shell melts and reveals its centre, and of course, a total sugar over-load. In culinary terms, this to us really does feel like “aroha”.

Social Bitches:
Seeing as you are the resident experts, what is your advice on love?

Rutene:
Love with your everything.

James:
Yes, love like it’s the last day you have to give it.

Social Bitches:
What about success? Clearly you know a thing or two about that too …

Rick:
What I’ve learned is, talent means nothing if you don’t push yourself. We’ve worked, we’ve failed and we’ve persevered. That’s what it’s all about. So yeah, I don’t think we’ve reached success yet, but we are on the way.

Social Bitches:
And what about your advice on Edinburgh Fringe?

Tainui:
See everything you can, just do it!

Rutene:
But get sturdy shoes, and compression socks.

James:
Get reviewed by the Social Bitches!

Rick:
Ha, and get them to take you out to dinner.

Social Bitches:
Hmmm … excellent advice!

 

LAST WORD

Having dined at Chaophraya on countless occasions, it’s most definitely one of our favourite places in Edinburgh. Everything about this restaurant is a class act: the views, the service, and the food. Though as always, we’re giving the last word to our dinner guests …

 

Rick:
I’ve been to Thailand a shedload of times, and the food here, especially the fried rice, just took me right back. It’s amazing.

Rutene:
All three courses were SO good, but … that coconut rice is the best I’ve ever had.

James:
I absolutely loved the platter …

Rick:
Oh yeah, those pork dumplings …

Tainui:
And the chicken spring rolls!

James:
Seriously, it’s been awesome, we highly recommend it!

 

Chaophraya

Fourth Floor
33 Castle Street
EH2 3DN

0131 226 7614

 

Modern Maori Quartet

Album Release: September 15th 

modernmaoriquartet.nz

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