Raglan, The Village Cafe Whatawhata and Tony Sly's Pottery are a few of Radar's favourite things.

The uninitiated might drive past the corner site without giving it another glance, not knowing they are missing out on Kihikihi's best-kept secret.


Inside, Radar (Peter) Lunjevich bustles about, hands in pockets of his white Arkwright shop coat – for fish filleting, he says – and leans an elbow on the counter of his pride and joy. He chats, moustache twitching, as sunshine bounces off his glasses.


It's like stepping into a time warp here at Radar's Kihikihi Fish Shop.


The word is that Radar Lunjevich makes the freshest fish and chips around.
DOMINICO ZAPATA/FAIRFAX NZ

The word is that Radar Lunjevich makes the freshest fish and chips around.


There's the mad collection of ornaments adorning the tops of refrigerated cabinets and walls: the lighthouses, fishermen, cow-horn fish, fish-shaped jandals, the mounted "fish" a woman brought back from Canada, "I thought it was you," she said, of an obelisk with glass baubles and shells glued to it.


"Locals and friends drop them off to me. I can't not put them all up."


There's the conversation, the keeping up with what's going on in the district. "I always have a chat with people who come in the door. The odd cow-cocky comes in stinking of cow s... – I get him out the door pretty quick," he says.


Word is getting out this is the best chippie between Hamilton and Kihikihi south. Those in the know come from all over for the fish and chips, the burgers and fritters. The fresh fish and paua, kina, mussels from Coromandel, oysters from Bluff and the Pacific variety too, eel, and the salmon Radar smokes.


The fish comes in each morning – frozen is a dirty word here – from his Hamilton supplier, Raglan wharf and Tauranga. And people often ask what's in his batter. "Water, baking powder and a little ENOs – the lemon one."


He still wraps his parcels in newspaper so chips and batter don't go soggy. He doesn't do gluten-free, "we're not big enough for that. But we can poach fish with lemon".


Although it's been the site of a fish and chip shop for many years, the shop was standing empty when Radar and wife Vicki took it over five years ago. "One of the girls who works here left her new job to come back. I'm the sixth person she has worked for in this shop."


He employs three main cooks, two school girls and has a "list of girls who want to work here".


His customers are farmers in the main, some businesses, travellers, and kids. Kihikihi is growing up, he says, "but it still has a small-town village feel, a sense of community. They did the main street up a few years ago and it's made a big difference. People stop and walk around here, and they never used to".


Radar hails from the Far North, of Croatian and Ngapuhi descent. His dad was a dairy farmer, his uncles owned fish and chip shops.


When Radar was 6, the family – he's one of 11 kids – left for Auckland where his father worked in the freezing works.


He left school at 15, "I hated it". Ever enterprising, he called into a market garden on his way home to see if they had work.


"They said I could start the next morning."


At 18, he followed his father into the freezing works, and it was there he was dubbed "Radar" after the character in the 1970s television programme MASH.


"But we've always been country people at heart," he says. And when his sister and brother-in-law needed someone to look after their Kihikihi farm while they were on holiday Radar jumped at the chance.


"Vicki loved it too, so I got a job here" He spent 35 years contract milking in the Waikato. Their two sons were born and raised here, and son Heath lives and works nearby, and has given them a grandson.


Injuries from a charging bull put paid to farming, so Radar took to opening mussels in Hamilton before setting up shop in Kihikihi.


He was already well known in the district, thanks to farming, but also from his involvement in rugby – as a referee, coach and referee-coaching schools.


"I love rugby. I'm still active at 61, although not as fit as I was when I shifted here and played rugby for United. My sons played for the club too."


Radar and Vicki lost younger son Laine in a car accident in 2015. "That knocked us back a bit", but local support and kindness helped see them through. "Everyone from the district, especially the Korakonui area, rallied around. They turned up with food – everything. This is one of the reasons I do this [the shop], to give back."


Behind the counter, Radar beams. He doesn't want to expand or create a restaurant. Things are good just the way they are. "This is my happy place. I love it here. The worst thing about this job is I can't catch my own fish."


So yes, owning his own fishing boat is a dream, a trip to Croatia too. And that's on his bucket list.


BEST OF THE WAIKATO

Favourite coffee shop? How do you take your coffee?

Humming Bird. I enjoy a latte with two sugars.


Favourite brunch spot? What would you order?

Red Kitchen. The Chicken Florentine.


Best park?

Albert Park in Te Awamutu, watching the rugby.


Best watering hole? What's your poison?

The Redoubt Bar & Eatery in Te Awamutu. I enjoy a Coruba and coke.


Best date spot?

A cafe. We enjoy exploring new coffee shops.


Best view?

Maungatautari, the beautiful view from the back of my shop on a clear day.


Where would you take tourists?

Raglan, as it is not a long drive, and Tony Sly's pottery.


A fond food memory from the region?

I've enjoyed lamb's fry and bacon from The Village Cafe in Whatawhata.


Favourite weekend/holiday getaway in the Waikato?

Raglan. We go there every year over the New Year's break. It is a great location as we get lots of friends and family come visit and stay.


What are you drinking?

Waikato Draught beer.


What Waikato product/produce can you not do without this season?

Fresh vegetables from the Cambridge Farmers' Market. We visit there every Saturday morning with our grandson Nixon. He loves Mama's Doughnuts.


Favourite day trip with the kids?

Mount Manganui, to visit friends and to walk the boardwalk.


What do you think is Waikato's best-kept secret?

Radar's Kihikihi Fish Shop

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