Orphans Kitchen is a well-loved constant on Ponsonby Road, having found a comfortable rhythm as a humming daytime cafe since May 2020 when owners Tom Hishon and Josh Helm ditched the dinner service they’d opened with back in 2013.

Now, they’re bringing back nights – but this time as a wine bar with an elevated bar menu.

Hishon and Helm have also brought on a new business partner: Dan Gillett of Wine Diamonds and Everyday Wine. The country’s most prolific natural wine distributor recently opened Flor on Karangahape Road, and this new partnership comes after years of working together in a different capacity.

“Orphans was actually one of my very first customers in 2014,” Gillett tells Broadsheet. “I used to travel up to Auckland, and I’d come and visit Tom and Josh and pour my wines for them. I always looked up to them as fellow restaurateurs.”

They started casually talking about the concept last year, and got more serious about it around Christmas. “The time wasn’t right back then, but it became more and more apparent that there’s room for a dedicated wine bar,” says Gillett. “Not somewhere that has a full focus on food as a restaurant, but is a bit more focused on wine.”

That being said, with Hishon’s expertise in the kitchen, the food is predictably delicious – slightly elevated without being fussy, and with an emphasis on excellent ingredients and produce.

Grab a gilda and some Daily Bread kūmara sourdough with cultured butter, or smoked kahawai and ’nduja croquettes with kawakawa mayonnaise. Pair organic fried chicken with koji mayonnaise and black lime with a raw dish like southern bluefin tuna with whipped egg and boquerones (fresh anchovies). For something heartier, the Fiordland wapiti leg fillet comes with a kale salsa verde and cafe de Paris sauce – and there are fries, of course, with parmesan and truffle.

And to drink? “The wine list is maybe my best work yet,” Gillett says proudly. “We’ve covered almost every major growing region in the world. 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.”

The menu consists of almost 200 bottles – but don’t be intimidated, the range is vast with current glass pours starting at $12 for prosecco and $13 for organic pinot gris, and going up to $16 for Marlborough pinot noir.

From the get-go, Gillett wanted to channel the wine experience he had created at his former wine shop and restaurant down in Marlborough, Scotch, which had a dedicated tasting room filled with around 2000 bottles; it was here where he made his name in the industry. “[I’m] not just limiting to the stuff that I import, but rather looking at everything from everyone.”

Orphans Kitchen
118 Ponsonby Road, Auckland

Mon & Tues 7am–2:30pm
Weds to Fri 7am–2:30pm, 5pm–late
Sat & Sun 8am–2:30pm, 5pm–late