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

Sunday, April 29, 2007

Bouncing back 5

In the time since my summer shakedown post, there's been the expected revival in the Wellington hospitality scene, but it's a little slow and tentative so far. There are, however, several imminent or promised arrivals, so things do seem to be looking up.

The most notable opening is the General Practitioner, which means that the last of the Rao empire is back on its feet. That's a good thing in itself, and having a respectfully restored heritage building on a sunny corner returned to the drinking and dining world is something to celebrate. Not everyone will enjoy the sight of the alarmingly-proportioned syringes and other surgical instruments displayed in vitrines, though it's hard to tell whether they're quite as offputting as the clientele, which on the night I visited consisted largely of braying suits, Chardonnay harpies and National party politicians.

I've already mentioned Martha's Pantry, which offers coffee and tiny cakes alongside flowers and delicate knick knacks in the decidedly less delicate environs of Karo Drive. There's still little sign of anything else opening up among the polished and empty shells of Upper Cuba St, though there are some faint hints of work going on in the husk of the old Bodega over in Willis St. Does anyone know what may or may not be happening there?

That's about it for brand new places since February, though two that I was pessimistic about have since reopened. Mezzaluna had indeed closed, but has since returned as Dorall. The Old Bank Bar & Café looked dead, but has instead been split in two, with Higher Taste occupying the old pokies room while the Old Bank itself has reopened in the remainder of the space. What was Cabaret is still active (as an extension of Chow), but I'll no longer count it as a separate entity.

While two new places have opened, one relatively established business has closed. Coco lost its "Pacific Vibe" some time ago, and it finally closed its doors yesterday. Whether its demise had anything to do with recent reports of bad service, or whether that was merely a symptom, is hard to say. It now appears that the space will become some sort of "recycled clothing boutique" or vintage shop.

So, since my last accounting, we've had a net gain of only one, bringing the change since the last map in December to a loss of three. But things are about to get interesting, and I can think of at least six brand new places that are about to open in spaces that were previously retail or that didn't exist at all. Some of those are hardly exciting, such as Esquires Coffee (yet another chain) at the Holiday Inn and the café set to open in the base of the Central Stratford apartment hotel in Willis St. The website promises a licensed bistro with a "tapas style" evening menu, but it also promised an April opening, and from the cheap & nasty look of the building itself and its even nastier companion planned for across the street, I wouldn't expect an unmissable experience.

Others might be more welcome, such as Mojo and Caffé Italiano in upper Cuba St (thus making up for the loss of Coco). Habebie, which describes itself as an "authentic Lebanese bar and restaurant", should also be worth checking out when it opens in the Oaks complex opposite Dixon St Deli. Most intriguing is the prospect of a brand-new Cuban café, and not even in Cuba St!

There have also been some blink-and-you'll-miss-them transformations. Theo's Taverna is now Kosmos, and Spice Island has become Perrett's Corner, though given the history of that site it's hard to say how long it will last. Orchid Lounge has finally closed, after an unsuccessful half-hearted attempt to revitalise East West and a brutal (but probably justified) review by David Burton. The new owners are wisely steering well clear of "Asian tapas", and it will become a casual French bistro called Le Métropolitain. Given that the owners are from Normandy and Lyon, with recent experience at François and Pravda, that should really be something to look forward to.


At 2:24 pm, April 30, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have you seen that James Smith Corner is for sale Tom?

At 2:47 pm, April 30, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Yes, I think its been planned to be sold for some time. A couple of years back, Roger Walker and his associates did some preliminary drawings for apartments above it (possible above just the 60s-ish section on Cuba St). I haven't seen them, but presumably they were just part of a valuation exercise.

At 4:24 pm, May 10, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I noticed today that Supreme Coffee has opened an outlet on Hopper St, just opposite Yan's Supermarket, called Factory.

It looks to be part of their roasting operations, as there was a new build on the site that finished recently with an industrial look of precast concrete panels and sheet materials.

I have only peeked inside, bit the cafe seems to be a similar concept to L'Affare on College St, with opening hours of 7:30am to 3:30pm, Mon - Fri.

Perhaps a strategic move - Hopper St would be a great location for some apartment/townhouse development.

At 5:33 pm, May 10, 2007, Blogger Tom said...

Thanks for the heads-up. There seems to be a trend of new roaster/cafes on the fringe of Te Aro: Mojo Factory in Cambridge Tce, The Immigrant's Son in Elizabeth St, Emporio in Able Smith St and now the new Supreme. It's a good example of how the combination of production and retail can help to open up otherwise marginal areas, were a cafe wouldn't otherwise work. Perhaps a coffee roasting business is a natural for the waterfront?

At 9:54 am, May 12, 2007, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Well I actually popped in to Factory to have a coffee yesterday. It's a lot smaller than I thought, and only sells counter food, there is no kitchen. Still, nice fitout, nice logo, nice coffee.


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