Classic bistro reopens

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The new interior of the O'Connell St. Bistro.

The new interior of the O’Connell St. Bistro.

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Natural tones, copper, plush seating and better acoustics improve on the restaurant's original space.

Natural tones, copper, plush seating and better acoustics improve on the restaurant’s original space.

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The bar area has seen considerable changes while retaining proximity to staff and visual lines to the kitchen.

The bar area has seen considerable changes while retaining proximity to staff and visual lines to the kitchen.

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Bistro owner Chris Upton.

Bistro owner Chris Upton.

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Ora King Salmon, Spanner Crab, fragrant eggplant and black vinegar.

Ora King Salmon, Spanner Crab, fragrant eggplant and black vinegar.

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Urbis takes a glimpse at one of our favourite Auckland eateries, the O’Connell Street Bistro, due to reopen this week after a fire forced its closure earlier this year.

Following a January 2016 fire that destroyed most of its interior, the iconic O’Connell Street Bistro in Auckland’s CBD is scheduled to reopen this Friday.

Mike Marshall of Two Point Zero Design was responsible for the original restaurant’s design and has also helmed its renovation. Marshall says that the new interior is, although not a replica, meant to be a “2016 take on the 1997 original. Everything has changed… just a little. It is such an iconic restaurant that it is not really possible to do sweeping changes.”

“We were devastated… we lost everything and every little nook and cranny of this space means something to us,” says owner Chris Upton. “When I built it, it was always about a backstreet inner city bistro…” he says, “I wanted to maintain that same philosophy. We did it right in the first place… I did not want to reinvent the wheel. All we did was give it a refresh and modernise it by taking on board comments from our customers: the chairs were not quite that comfortable, now they are; it was a little hard to hear when there was a lot of people in here, so we have soundproofing and the chairs absorb sound… the tables were too high in the bar….”

The new interior also boasts an aged copper feel, a column that stood between the bar and the dining room has been removed and the space has been lightened. “The dining room has lost some of its darkness, which is good thing. It needed something fresher, cleaner,” says Marshall. He insists, however, that the lightening of the interior has not compromised on the private and secluded vibe the corner bistro exuded to its exterior.

The colour palette has changed using Dulux Poor Knights (dark navy), Narrow Neck Half (taupe) and Manorburn (off-white). Some of the most noticeable changes include a more uninterrupted view into the kitchen, making the dining area more interactive and connected to the place where head chef Mark Southon creates some of the locale’s signature dishes.

“Mark is a custodian of certain dishes and he has not allowed for them to be taken off. Everything else is new,” says Upton, quoting the bistro’s classics: rabbit paperdelle, steak tartare, the crème brulee, and a squid dish that “no matter how many times we put beautiful things on the menu people just go back to that dish!”.

This overall interior refresh, Upton says, “has put us in good stead for another 20 years.”


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