WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Il Secondo Casino

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The Il Casino building for saleThanks to Kegan for drawing my attention to this article in today's Dominion Post: the Bresolin family wants to reopen Il Casino. Since the closure was announced in July, and the sale of the building confirmed in September, many Wellingtonians have felt a sense of loss, so this is indeed good news.

One thing's for sure, though: it won't be on the existing site. According to the article, "Globe Holdings director Andrew Fawcet said he had yet to decide what to do with it. Because both buildings had been completely gutted reopening a restaurant on the site was not an option, he said." That sounds slightly odd, since supposedly the buildings were originally gutted in order to strengthen and refurbish them with the express purpose of reopening the restaurant. Hmm. Having paid a record price for the site, they are unlikely to build anything that doesn't maximise the return, and though a restaurant could definitely work on the ground floor of a new apartment building here (as 88 just down the road works quite nicely), it won't be Il Casino.

So, "Son of Il Casino" will have to be in a new location, and while Enzo and co are looking around, nothing's been decided yet. This wouldn't be a WellUrban post without some wild and baseless speculation, though, so here's a few thoughts about some suitable venues.

The former Neat site at 201 Cuba St has been a bit of a Bermuda triangle for restaurants (Orsini's, Mammy Flo's, Raja, Montelupo...), but the building itself has the combination of grandeur and homeliness that would suit Il Casino more than its previous tenants. On the other hand, it's probably far too small, and it's already being renovated by someone else. A snippet in the DomPost back in July said that the someone else in question was John McGrath (a restaurateur who's had almost as much of an impact on Wellington's nightlife and dining scene as Remiro Bresolin), though there were "For Lease" signs in the window long after that article, so it may have changed hands since then.

A larger and grander old building that would suit Il Casino is what is offically known as the Dr Henry Pollen House, though until early this year it was best known as the home of Bouquet Garni. The house may be more French than Italian, but it certainly worked as a fine dining restaurant and has a long and (ahem) colourful history that would be perfect for Il Casino's combination of old-school glamour and hedonism. However, it seems to be undergoing the world's slowest renovation, and another DomPost snippet suggested that it was the other McGrath brother (Danny) in charge this time, with plans for a Monteith's "gastro pub" (please, no more schist!).

But speaking of grand old knocking shops, the old Mayfair on Ghuznee St springs to mind as another great spot. Not only does it have an eccentric grandeur and a location that can only get better next year once Ghuznee St ceases to be State Highway 1, it's large and rambling with (presumably) a warren of old rooms that would suit Il Casino's need for a range of dining spaces with varying levels of intimacy. If the Bresolins want to introduce a more casual option to complement the fine dining, then Glover Park could certainly benefit from a café opening up on that corner. It's been under wraps for a while now, with no clear sign of what's to become of it, so it might be available.

... and in a spooky coincidence, while I was literally in the middle of writing this post, one of my spies told me that the Mayfair building is indeed very likely to become the new Il Casino. Given that the DomPost article quotes Enzo as saying they want to reopen "in the very near future", we may not have long to wait before Wellington's favourite marriage proposal venue is reborn.

16 Comments:

At 12:50 PM, October 17, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wonderful prediction - I think your suggestion of Mayfair is spot-on in terms of suitability, and 'my spies' have stated that the Glover Park 'spill' is being actively 'encouraged' by WCC in order to enliven the park's edges. That's an all to rare win-win folks...

 
At 7:31 PM, October 17, 2006, Blogger Seamonkey Madness said...

A little bird told me that Neat is going to reopen very soon as...Neat.

=P

 
At 1:46 AM, October 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

What was Neat is reopening on the 21st as 'our bar', a new gay pub. It's currently being renovated by a lesbian couple with the aim of creating something more friendly and with a feeling of community - i.e. without the deafening appallingly bad music and sweaty boys (not that there's neccesarily anything wrong with sweaty boys...) of pound and most likely the soon to open other new gay bars

 
At 8:41 AM, October 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

...my little spies say something different about the old Mayfair.... despite being covered with scaffolding, inside has been happening.... precisely nothing. Current owner just stuck the scaffolding up to stop the council hassling him. No work has been started, none at all. A standoff perhaps because he wants to demolish it and the council wants it restored? Should have been left as a brothel.... not a good spot for il Casino i would think - Glover Park is just a recipe for failure....

 
At 9:16 AM, October 18, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Glover Park - with active edges - is a recipe for success (imho). Sure, it would be better located in the Swan Lane carpark adjacent to the main thoroughfare of Cuba Street (can anyone arrange a swap with Wilson Carparks - it would place the two parts of their carparks next to each other!), but with SH1 being removed from Ghuznee, this area could be vibrant and successful regardless, or because, of the present location.

This is a space with much potential (despite the cheap and nasty recent refurb work), mark my words...

 
At 9:21 AM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

> What was Neat is reopening on the 21st as 'our bar', a new gay pub.

Aha, I had wondered about that. Pound has left a big gap in the market and I've heard that there's been a bit of a scramble in the hospitality industry to open a new gay bar or bars. IMERST seems to be heading that way, with quite a few gay dance parties recently, but it may just stay as a general venue.

I've always thought it strange that, for a liberal city, Wellington has had so few gay bars and clubs. Mind you, it seems like (big generalisation here) our gay communities are more political and less hedonistic than in Auckland. Must be the weather!

> ...my little spies say something different about the old Mayfair.... despite being covered with scaffolding, inside has been happening.... precisely nothing. Current owner just stuck the scaffolding up to stop the council hassling him. No work has been started, none at all.

I had been wondering about that, and it did seems as if nothing was happening at all. However, my source seems fairly confident that this is the spot the Bresolin boys are going for, so maybe whoever currently owns it is selling it to them.

> not a good spot for il Casino i would think - Glover Park is just a recipe for failure

Glover Park is certainly a far worse spot for a park than Swan Lane, but I don't think it's entirely doomed, though. I was there on a sunny afternoon a couple of weekends ago and it was very popular, and it's a pleasant enough place when the weather co-operates. It does need at least a couple of things to keep it more regularly populated, though: a cafe along the eastern edge, and a reason to walk through to Garrett St. Il Casino could certainly help with the first of those, as long as they have a casual enough cafe or bar at ground level, but unless something interesting happens with the Garrett-Bute St connection I don't think the park will get much regular foot traffic.

Oh, and does anyone know when the "sculptural light installation" or whatever is due to be installed where those crummy temporary benches are?

 
At 9:51 AM, October 18, 2006, Anonymous simon said...

work still going on at the Mayfair, new cupola was installed yesterday I believe....

As for glover park, a restaurant opening into the park, reinstating a two lane road with wider footpaths, + good sun etc all give this place a much better chance of success?

 
At 2:52 PM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Maximus said...

Anon needs to chose his / her contacts more clearly. There's a big crane there at the Mayfair today, with a sparkly new copper dome going on. Clearly something is / has been going on at the Mayfair.

But i totally agree that Glover Park is a hopeless venue. Simple fact: too much traffic, double sided, so littel enclosure. Bad sun (shielded by tall building to west. Off the pedestrian trail (even Popup gallery is too far for most people.). It's a pointless, totally stupid place to put a park. It was a bloody good place for the homeless to live though!

One more time from me: Swan Lane ! ! Now THAT's a good spot for an urban park.....

 
At 2:56 PM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Maximus said...

...but re the Gay Bar thing - that's another good thing about Welly - a more integrated society perhaps? No need for seperate ghettoisation of sub-interests - makes life much more interesting.

 
At 4:08 PM, October 18, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

maximus: I agree that it's a stupid place for a park, but I don't think it's a complete write-off, and now that the council's "invested" so many $$s in its "upgrade" it's worth thinking what could improve it (short of getting rid of it or starting again. The distance from the pedestrian trail could have been avoided to some extent by having a diagonal path through (I often think of walking through from east Ghuznee to upper Cuba, but because the path is orthogonal it's no shorter than going via Cuba), but that's too late to fix. We can't do much about the sun, but some activity on the edges (besides the occasional indie kid invasion from Zeal) would make up for that. The traffic will (supposedly) reduce once the bypass is through. And if whatever goes in the middle is any good, it might give it some sense of place beyond its current "leftover space" feel.

I see what you mean about gay bars and integration, and when Eddy was at Neat it was hardly a place for homophobes! Monkey seems to be the only Gay Bar per se at the moment, but there are plenty of places that are gay-friendly enough. However, I imagine there's still a certain subset of the gay (male) community who want something other than a low-key mixed gay/straight bar: a proper gay club like Pound. Ghettoisation is bad, sure, but so is homogeneity, so a spectrum (an rainbow, if you will :-) of bar styles might be the best situation.

 
At 6:29 PM, October 23, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

glover park gets plenty of sun and will get more as summer moves in (soon i hope!). sure there's a little noise from passing traffic but this will die down when the bypass kicks in. there are some nice grass areas to lie on, and it's not teaming with people (see Midland Park) at lunchtime. all in all a perfect place to enjoy your lunch and a book. i'm happy that it stays that way. hmmm, but now the secret is out...

 
At 2:36 PM, November 02, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Unfortunately Il Casino will not be opening again! Although sad, it is just the way change is. There is not one restauraunteur in Wellington that could pull it off with even close to the same finese and character as Remiro Bresolin. I personally find it offensive that any show pony believes that they can fill those shoes also that anyone would consider tarnishing the fine name of an historical institution.

 
At 3:20 PM, November 02, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

What "show ponies" are you referring to? Remiro's family, perhaps? I'd like to think that he has enough faith in his sons that he wouldn't think of them "tarnishing" Il Casino's name.

 
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