Home' Hospitality Business : HB AUG 2016 Contents AOTEA HOUSE
291-297 Queen St, Auckland
Open daily 10am until late
Ph: 377 3535
The top end of town, excluding Symonds
Street, has been somewhat barren of
opportunities for great dining experiences,
until recently that is. Property investor and
entertainment entrepreneur, James Kwak,
has been working at turning what was an
uninspiring retail space into something of a food mecca.
Starting with Metrolanes – what has to be one of the most
luxurious and impressive bowling centres built anywhere; adding
Viva Italian Restaurant on the corner of Bledisloe Lane and Aotea
Square last year (where securing a seat when there’s a show on
has been nigh on impossible), to his latest venue, Aotea House
which opens onto Aotea Square – and all managed by serial
hospitality addict, Calvin Clapperton.
The assemblage of management alone promises something
great: Chef Murray Wiblin (Westin Hotel, Tyler St Garage, Ostro,
Hotel de Brett), Calvin Clapperton - Group F & B Consultant and
General Manager (Toto, Bella and Tribecca along with numerous
Australian Hatted and remarkable establishments), Matthew
Whiteman - Venue Manager (latterly associated with the openings
of Neil Perry’s Sydney Rockpool, short stints at Negociants Wines
and Riedel Glassware) - things ought to be good.
A décor that gives more than a passing nod to early colonial
New Zealand meets industrial-chic: rough sawn timber wall
cladding, heavy hardwood furniture, period lighting, polished-
concrete floors, exposed ceilings, in-your-face steel forms,
antique light shades. Outside a covered courtyard (almost one
third of the entire footprint) is more than adequately heated and
protected from the elements and cloaked in numerous living
walls. An outdoor bar where many new emerging premium spirits
are prominently and unashamedly displayed, services this space.
One of the first hints that Aotea House is not your usual cookie-
cutter venue is the presence of some fine liquor in the case of Blue
Duck and Black Robin Gin nesting into the speed rail – a nice touch.
All of this frames an open kitchen where
the cuisine promises much. “Think what
we really love to eat as New Zealanders,”
Clapperton comments, “and our offering
will be comforting, not confrontational –
tasty and fast paced”.
Wiblin and Clapperton have searched
the breadth of the country to find some
excellent product to showcase on the
menu; produce with more than a “farm
gate to plate” advertising spin. “There’s
provenance, a credible story, behind everything we sell,”
says Clapperton. They’ve showcased it superbly too, letting
the natural flavours sing, banishing fussy preparations and
garnish in the process.
A supply partnership with DB Breweries is not initially obvious,
where the offering – almost all on tap – is fresh and upbeat. Black
Dog Brewery from Wellington supplies a crafty new and innovative
brew each month to support some of the latest and highly
awarded main stream favourites. ‘Fresh-is-best’ will be the focus
and approach rather than a beer for every purpose.
Wine choices are restricted to New Zealand artisan producers,
supported by a select number of more familiar names. The list
was compiled for appeal and more importantly for being great
matches to the cuisine, rather than on price or ease of purchase
from a bunch of regular distributors.
Examples of this, offered by the glass are the extraordinary
Destiny Bay “Destinae” from Waiheke Island at a mainland
price; Soljans “Fusion” Sparkling Muscat (who enjoys brut
sparklers anyway, Clapperton queries), and Leaning Rock
Pinot Noir – a cherry fruit bomb from Alexandra along with
many other rare gems. And you’ll only hear New Zealand music
played in the background.
This experienced, talented team is determined to reinvigorate
a part of Auckland left behind in the Viaduct and Waterfront
Sprawl, and if the opening of their other venues is anything to
go by, it might pay to visit early in order to secure a seat. This
is a welcome shot in the arm for the dining options in the Arts
District of Upper Queen St.
On the Menu:
"Think what we really love to eat as
New Zealanders - our offerings are
comforting, not confrontational - tasty
and fast paced.
"There's provenance and a credible
story behind everything we sell."
Arts district now offers food mecca
14 | August 2016 | Hospitality BUSINESS
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