Each month we take the opportunity to sit down with some wonderful women and ask them questions on life, fashion, their careers and what inspires them. A moment to listen and learn, over an aperitif, and an occasional boujee fry...
This month we met with entrepreneur, award winning and quite frankly, all round great human, Francesca Voza, at her new venture, Eliza's Manor.
You may know Fran from one of her many delicious establishments in Wanaka and Christchurch. Over the years her eatery portfolio has included a mobile woodfired pizza truck and the breakfast hotspot, Miro in Christchurch city centre. My own first 'tasting memory', was trying THE best polenta fries in the Gloucester Street based Francesca's Restaurant, back in 2015 when Fran and her team opened up next to the Isaac Theatre Royal. Working at the theatre at the time, I remember some weeks, the team and I would pop in for a pizza and a polenta fry every other day!
These days Fran is based up in Christchurch full time and is focusing her talents on the award winning Miro Restaurant & the newly opened and beautifully refurbished, Eliza's Manor boutique hotel, which is where we settled in for a cosy catch up...
A&A: Can you please share with us a brief background about yourself and how you got started in NZ hospitality?
James (husband) & I met in Tenerife back in 2001 and decided to backpack together around the world for our one year ‘OE’…well that ended up being 10 years and working in hospo in 70 countries around the world! We lived in France, Canada, Thailand, Australia. At one point we had used up all our work visas and were diving in Borneo when we met a kiwi lady. We said we were thinking of getting work holiday visas for New Zealand and what should we do? She said all the cool peeps go to Wanaka! So that’s what did and we worked for Oakridge Resort in Wanaka and Whare Kea Lodge & Chalet and then we opened up our own food truck selling wood fired pizza in 2013 and we only just sold it in 2021…we were getting way too old for it!
A&A: Why Eliza’s and why now?
Well, I hadn’t planned on it. A friend of mine was the commercial real estate agent who was selling it and knew that we really liked old buildings and architecture. They said you just have to come and have a look as think you’ll love it. We came in to view it and saw the staircase and were like ‘oh no!’… we just fell in love with the building. So yes, hadn’t planned it, especially in covid times but sometimes these things just present themselves and you just have to do it.
A&A: Hospo has some really tough moments – how do you push through your worst times?
The last two years have been the trickiest ever in hospitality, for everyone. Sometimes I get up in the morning and think why the hell do I keep doing it. But then I think its not just me, there are twenty of us in a team and everyone gets up and strives and gets through and as a team we are all passionate about the same thing. It’s still been shit, but not bad with a great team around you. And locals! Locals are amazing. Miro’s locals have been so super supportive especially after the last two years. The support of people in Christchurch has been amazing. And wine.
A&A: What is your hospitality philosophy?”
It may sound cheesy but at Miro we have a saying that people ‘arrive as customers and leave as fans’. We always want to be the people’s favourites. Even if they come in for a coffee, we always want them to leave as a fan. To exceed their expectations. It’s all about the customer. In the kitchen at Miro, we have the quote; ‘Service is what we do for our guests and hospitality is how we make them feel’.
A&A: You clearly have an eye for design – all your places are & have been stylish, unique and ‘on point’ – where do you draw your inspiration from?
I can’t take all the credit! My husband James is an artist and has a really good eye for the design. We both have a similar style and take inspo from where we have been and travelled. James reigns me in a lot as I have some out there ideas!! We both love the outdoors and lots of green, I suppose quite, bohemian…we want people to feel super comfortable, like you don’t want to leave once you’ve sat down. We create spaces that don’t create a shock surprise to the senses…we like classic, old-school vibes, rich colours, warm and comfortable. That is us.
A&A: Following on from this - food, décor and fashion all seem interconnected and move with trends and time – how would you describe your fashion style?
Ummm because I am in hospitality I have a capsule wardrobe…a lot of black and animal prints…I feel like I’m Bet Lynch from Corrie!! Haha!
*Today Fran is wearing a black top and an animal print mini skirt and she looks fab*
I definitely look towards a current trend in design but always revert to what we feel is aesthetically pleasing to us; but maybe with a nod to a current trend. But I wouldn’t spray paint the wall if that was the current trend for example!
A&A: Tell us about your sense of personal style and how fashion fits into your world.
I would say personal style is quite ‘business casual’. Again, lots of black with my animal print. Comfort is a big thing. Not sure if that’s a turning 40 thing. I don’t think I’m very stylish when it comes to fashion, even at the weekend I don’t really wear a hoodie or runners etc, I’m still smart but casual. I have my certain shops that I like to buy from, and I just stick to them. I have worn the same makeup and perfume since I was 17! I stick to what I know, and I trust.
However, even backpacking I would always wear some makeup and always jewellery. I would have a small amount of clothes that were good quality that I would then interchange and integrate accessories with, I guess even then I was a very conscious consumer.
I remember observing one of our guests several years ago, she always looked amazing and different, and I couldn’t work out how she did it as had very little luggage. One day I asked her if she had other bags somewhere and she told me she had worn the same black dress three times, but no one had noticed as she had accessorized with different scarves and accessories! Brilliant!
Made me realise that I could change up one of my LBDs with different jewellery, scarves, hair etc and it would be like a whole new outfit – genius.
I am definitely not in fast fashion. I like one off pieces, vintage, rather partial to an op shop and love finding a piece that no-one else has.
The lady above with the fabulous accessorising prowess, was fashion royalty, Michal McKay. Model, muse and amongst many career defining moments, Fashion & Beauty Editor for Vogue New Zealand. Learn more about Michal here
A&A: Following on from this, when you are not in hospitality mode – do you dress in the same style?
A&A: Lets round this out with a moment of pride as you should feel immensely proud of Eliza’s and what you have achieved here – tell us what moment in your career are you most proud of?
There are a lot! I have a few!
Personally, last year, Miro got in the top 100 restaurants in NZ 2021!! So that’s my ego one!
Professionally, we have had a dozen or so staff that have gone on to own their own business. So much pride seeing how well they are doing. And selling businesses that have then gone on to be amazing and do so well too.
You can follow Eliza’s Manor Boutique Hotel on Instagram @elizasmanor and their sister restaurant, Miro @miro_christchurch
For hotel and restaurant bookings & enquiries: https://elizas.co.nz/