What's up, Dock?
Okay, so the mystery bar wasn't much of a mystery: it's the Herd St Brasserie that's just opened at Chaffers Dock. The food and décor is all fairly predictable, but the location is spectacular and it's exactly the sort of place that the waterfront has needed for a long time. It does breakfast, coffee, lunch (including cheapish panini as well as full cooked meals), reasonably-priced dinners (mains in the mid-twenties), cocktails (including a rather excellent Tanqueray Ten Martini for $12!), beer and wine (thankfully not tied to a single distributor's range). For people who've been waiting for a waterfront dining option that's neither an expensive restaurant nor a dodgy pub: your wait is over.
This is perhaps relevant to a comversation I got involved in yesterday. I tend to agree with Russell Brown on many topics, but when he wrote yesterday:
The next public-spirited architect who proposes a "residential mix" for Auckland's waterfront can piss off. Building swanky apartments for your mates kills public space. Bah.He may have a point about Auckland's Viaduct: I don't know, since it's years since I visited. From what I've seen second-hand, there's some pretty good architecture going on there, but the ground floors tend to have either private residential use or blank walls. I replied by saying that it's a lack of active edges at ground level that kills public space, not "residential mix".
For the record, here's what public space look like when it's been killed by swanky apartments:
Today, this dead space played host to dozens of people walking, cycling or jogging past on the recently opened promenade, while others sat down and enjoyed a coffee or a beer in the sun. In fact, there appeared to be slightly more people at the Brasserie than there were on the whole of the Waitangi Park lawn, despite the lovely day. Can it be that residential, retail and recreational uses can actually co-exist? When the seats and lighting are complete, this is going to be a really nice space, and a lot livelier than it's ever been before.
I've found out a few more things about some of the other upcoming tenants in the Chaffers Dock complex. The Port Café will indeed be a "gourmet fish 'n' chips" place, with BYO and takeaways, and is expected to open in about a month. Mövenpick is even closer to opening, but the Chaffers Store and Empire skate shop will take a while longer. The atrium, which is nearly finished and looking quite spectacular, will eventually be home to a branch of Auckland's Zarbo deli/café. While I'd prefer something unique and local, it seems to be very highly regarded, and a delicatessen would be a really nice complement to the other businesses (update: Zarbo plans to open in October, and will include a pizzeria). There seems to be just a couple of tenancies still to be let, and I'm hoping that the remaining waterside one becomes a cheap Malaysian place, something like Rasa or Roti Chennai. Martinis, fish 'n' chips, ice cream, antipasto, pizza, subs and roti: with or without swanky apartments, that sounds like a good mix to me.