When it rains it pours – and in this instance we’re talking about Auckland’s bar scene at the end of what has been a very wet winter. The city has welcomed four new venues in the last two months, three that fall into the wine bar category and a casual courtyard cocktail bar. Each offers something different, whether that’s a familiar space that’s now open for nights, a crowd-pleasing courtyard in a tucked-away location, or a creative menu that’s just as much a drawcard as the drinks.
Flor, Karangahape Road
Owned by Dan Gillett of Everyday Wine, Flor took over the former Alta space on K’ Road in mid-August. The olive-green banquettes, rear courtyard and multi-coloured tiled floor remain, but a fresh crew is overseeing inventive small plates and the almost-200-bottle-strong natural wine list. Gillett’s taken on Tushar Grover and Josh Letele, both skilled chefs who formerly worked at now-closed fine-dining restaurant Pasture, so you can expect the sharing menu to be more refined than your standard bar fare. You might order charred duck breast with watercress; a grilled half-snapper with smoked butter; tomato, peach and marigold salad; or spicy and salty hot fried octopus with mayo. If you’re just going in for a glass and some bread, it’s the Pasture sourdough recipe served with ricotta and fermented honey.
As well as ever-changing by-the-glass pours and the hefty bottle selection, there’s a concise cocktail list, Garage Project beers and French ciders – and Flor’s courtyard is an ideal spot to park when the weather warms. 366 Karangahape Road.
Bar Beluga, Grey Lynn
Part of the intriguing Rose Alley food court meets co-op on Rose Road, Bar Beluga’s indoor courtyard makes the case for uncomplicated but well-made drinks and a chill setting. It’s run by Paddy Dillon (ex-Seafarers) who’ll mix you a great spicy Margarita, a tamarind Whisky Sour or pour you a pét-nat. The food is similarly lo-fi – think charcuterie boards, toasties and simple small plates – but you can grab a slice or two from its arcade neighbour Pizza Monkey to nibble between sips. 5 Rose Road.
Tappo, Karangahape Road
The newest addition to St Kevins Arcade is an extension of one of the city’s favourite pasta restaurants. Pici’s sibling bar is also its immediate neighbour, in a space that owners Gemma Hareb, Jono Thevenard and Kazuya Suzuki had initially taken as a prep room. Now it taps its heels and transforms into a wine bar and shop at night after being used for pasta and focaccia-making during the day. Sit on a stool around the large central table, or out the front in the arcade, with a glass of organic wine and a snack from chef Thevenard’s dedicated bar menu – think beef carpaccio, crostini and cheeses. Or stop in for dessert and order Pici’s signature cheesecake with sea salt and olive oil to have with your orange wine. 183 Karangahape Road.
Orphans Kitchen, Ponsonby
Orphans Kitchen is not new, but it’s newly back open in the evenings after running as a daytime operation since May 2020. Dan Gillett (who also has Flor) has come on as a business partner, refining the concept with Orphans founders Tom Hishon and Josh Helm. The offering centres around the wine – a list that Gillett (who’s written a lot of wine lists) says is his best yet. “We’ve covered almost every major growing region in the world,” he told Broadsheet. “If you want to drink good champagne, good burgundy, good riesling – you can do it. There are wines that are young and fresh, and wines with age. We’re covering the full spectrum of wines of the world.”
Food-wise, we’d recommend popping in for a snack or a light meal – the buckwheat waffle is a standout with its light crispy and pillowy texture, the fried chicken is perfectly moist and the southern bluefin tuna is so fresh it’s almost still swimming. 118 Ponsonby Road.
Honourable mention: Not quite new but an evolution of sorts, Ponsonby Social Club’s sibling Ante Social has had a revamp and is now billing itself as “Brooklyn bohemian speak-easy meets Shibuya audiophile music room”. Go for creative cocktails, food pop-ups, and a constant rotation of vinyl on the just-installed hi-fi sound system.