Part of new retail and hospitality precinct McKenzies, new multi-space bar and eatery the Commons is putting Takapuna Beach on the dining map.
Offering everything from a late morning coffee or casual lunch or dinner, to special occasion dining or a fun night out for drinks with friends, the Commons is the newest addition to the Pack & Company family which includes the recently opened Imperial in downtown Auckland and Wellington’s Matterhorn.
Central to McKenzies and with an open internal courtyard at its heart, the Commons features five distinct but interconnected spaces, which share or overlook this ‘common’ outdoor area. A stunning two-story standalone building rises from one side of the courtyard, accessible from within the courtyard and from the seaward facing promenade to the east.
On the ground floor, a casual and inviting bar space flows out into the courtyard with exclusive outdoor seating. A bistro restaurant on the seaward side features a two-story atrium and stunning light installation. Upstairs, a mezzanine level offers more seating for drinking and dining with views overlooking the courtyard, and a more formal degustation room offers a view of Rangitoto.
Offering all-day alfresco dining and drinking, the courtyard features a seven metre long bar. A ‘living wall’ of real grass fronts the bar, complemented by another green wall behind the bar lush with bamboo, ivy and other creepers. Unique retractable tulip parasols create an intimate dining and drinking experience while providing protection from the elements.
Executive Chef Nick Honeyman heads the Commons kitchen. South African born, Honeyman spent several years in Paris working under great chefs Alain Passard at L’Arpege (three Michelin star) and Pascal Barbot at L’Astrance (also three Michelin star), and in Tokyo at Iron chef Sakai Hirotia’s restaurant La Rochelle. Most recently head chef at Auckland’s Sale St establishments Dallow’s and Cru, his New Zealand resume also includes time at the French Café and as a guest chef on Masterchef.
Honeyman’s reputation as one of New Zealand’s top chefs is evident in his approach to the Commons’ menu. Designed to make you think about what you’re eating, his conceptual creations play with different flavours, techniques and styles, reinterpreting them in unexpected ways. This sense of discovery is taken a step further in the degustation room or ‘Common Room’, in which there is literally no menu from which to pick and choose. Instead diners choose how many courses they want, with the wait staff keeping note of any likes and dislikes, and the kitchen decides what to prepare.
Not to be outdone by the kitchen, the bar’s extensive cocktail list includes six pages of delectable options ranging from classic to serious, to light and refreshing or aromatic and breezy, and the ideal tipple for brunch or lunch. The 50-strong wine list includes predominantly New Zealand varietals, with the ‘deg room’ boasting an impressive cellar collection of New Zealand and international wines and smaller, handcrafted varieties. There’s also a strong focus on beer with something for everyone including some lesser-known craft beers.
On the opposite side of the courtyard, the intimate Little Empire bar is the ideal spot to relax with an after dinner aperitif. With spirits and cocktails taking pride of place, there’s an interesting mix of high-end and rare spirits and some serious cocktails – like flaming ‘blazers’ – as well as a great wine list. Also on this side of the courtyard and fronting Hurstmere Road is European-style bakery and patisserie Elske. Meaning “to love” in Danish, this is the third offering from Michelin-star trained Danish pastry chef Kristina Jensen, with successful city-side outlets in Imperial Lane and Newmarket.
Doing things the old-fashioned and often time-consuming way, Jensen starts each day at 2am in order to make everything from scratch, from her specialty Danish rye and Elske signature sourdough breads, to croissants and mille feuille cake made with a thousand layers of puff pastry. Sharing floor space with Little Empire, the clever repositioning of a sliding velvet wall and bookcase with hidden revolving door sees the space morph from coffees to cocktails come late afternoon. An upmarket hospitality and retail precinct, McKenzies balances unique historical features with the best of modern retail design, a feeling of openness achieved with visual links between the various spaces.
Offering sophisticated and contemporary dining, McKenzies is home not just to the Commons, Little Empire and Elske, but soon also to Mexico and a café from the owners of Zus and Zo. Premium fashion and lifestyle retailers onsite are expected to open in September. Privately-owned North Shore property company Wiltshire Group is behind the landmark redevelopment, championing the wider vision for the revitalisation of Takapuna Beach currently shared by local government and developers alike.
The Commons, open seven days, from lunch until late. 21 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna Beach, Auckland. ph: 09 929 2791, e: email@example.com, w: www.thecommons.co.nz