Pacific food in the heart of Panmure

15 DEC, 2020 | In the Media

People who love Pacific Island food but don’t have much time to cook head to Melina’s Takeaway on Queens Road.

The business is owned and run by sisters Tina and Melema’u Lavakeiaho and their mum, Maumi. They all love seeing the locals come
in and enjoy their traditional dishes. “We’ve had so much support. Lots of people from local businesses come in for lunch and our loyal customers all share our stuff on social media. It’s great,” says Melema’u. “It’s been great to be able to start a business in an area
we know and love so well and bring a bit of the islands to people living far from home.”
It’s not just locals stopping by to get a fix of traditional Pacific food. “We’ve seen lots of new faces, says Tina. “We’re doing pretty good, with some regulars coming from West Auckland and the North Shore. We have been seeing some of them every Friday.”
Customers from all cultures come to Melina’s Takeaway, including more Pakeha than before. “It’s cool. Some come in and say they have always wanted to try our sort of food.” Some of these new customers first saw Tina and Melema’u featured in Tamaki’s Support Local campaign.
The Lavakeiahos now live in Pakuranga but used to live in Panmure. Panmure will always feel  like home to them. “We are always in the Tamaki area as we have lots of family, and also church, here. We considered ourselves local when we first ever stayed in Panmure,” Tina says. Tina combines study with her work in the business. On the day Mai Tamaki visited, she had finished her morning of lectures, before returning to open the shop for the lunchtime rush and then heading back for an afternoon of classes. Melema’u has finished her studies, but she helps with business accounts behind the scenes. Maumi is Melina’s main cook and recipe developer. A couple of her sisters help her in the kitchen, plus Tina and Melema’u’s cousins lend a hand in the shop. “Working together is all good. We enjoy it,” says Tina with a smile. It’s always been a family affair at Melina’s, which is a combination of the sisters’ names – Melema’u and Tina. It was Maumi’s idea to start the business. “She always thought of starting a takeaway for Pacific Island food as there really aren’t that many outside South Auckland. She was chatting to the guy who used to have this place and he said it would be available soon, so she decided the time was right to make it happen.”

Melina’s Takeaway opened in early 2017 and Melema’u says at first it was a bit intimidating cooking for other Pacific people in the community. “We grew up in Panmure and there was always that fear of cooking something that other people know how to cook at home – and whether the Aunties would think they could do better! But after a while we realised people like our way of cooking and were so pleased to be able to get traditional island food when they didn’t have time to find ingredients like taro leaves or to cook things for long periods of time after a long day at work.” It takes good planning and organisation to cook traditional food for a takeaway. “It’s not the kind of food you can just whip up in five minutes. Our most popular dishes like Lu Sipi, lamb and coconut cream, and Lu Pulu Masima, salted beef and coconut cream, take at least two hours to cook in taro leaves, Tina explains. Her favourite dish is Lu Sipi – while Maumi is partial to Moa Fefeka chicken, cooked with coconut cream and mild spices.

You’ll find Melina’s Takeaway at 139 Queens Road, Panmure. See the latest news at facebook.com/melinastakeaway