With its unassuming shop-face and concealed behind dark curtains this little French oasis is one of Kingsland’s best kept secrets and the perfect venue for a sweet little rendezvous. With its dark painted walls, candlelit tables and vintage chandeliers hanging from the bar ceiling it’s not so much a stop along your way as a great place to settle in.
Owned and managed by Julian, a Bordeaux native, Winehot offers an affordable French experience that won’t break the bank and- true to its name- boasts a fantastic selection of wines. Their award winning wine list offers drops from Spain to France, Portugal and of course New Zealand, alongside an assortment of cocktails including their most popular choice ‘The Parisian’ (a delicate combination of Gin, Vermouth and Liqueur De Cassis). If you’re unsure of what to order (or trying to impress your date with a good drop) put yourself in Julian’s capable hands. He’s a friendly wealth of knowledge and will steer you in the right direction.
In addition to fantastic vinos they also offer beautifully presented, honest French fare. Traditionally prepared and using their own recipes they will cheerfully try to accommodate any special dietary requirements you (or your date) may have.
Winehot is one of my favourites. It’s intimate, cosy and authentic; with plush stools and cool tunes. It’s a popular spot for couples (without being too crowded), and also offers a nice little courtyard out the back. It’s deliciously French and not at all pretentious. And best of all it’s open ‘til late. Très chic.
Depot Eatery & Oyster Bar
Ideally located within a quick walk to the Civic theatre, the movies and live music hotspots, Depot offers a great sense of occasion without appearing to try too hard. Having cleaned up in this year’s Metro Restaurant Awards it’s executed by Al Brown with the standard of excellence you’d expect from a chef of his calibre; and its deceptively casual atmosphere belies the attention to detail that has gone into every aspect.
The interior is simple but stylish, with modern, maritime influences. Although perhaps not your obvious dimly-lit romantic choice it succeeds in all the invisible components that make for a great date and is executed with an air of effortlessness. The music is upbeat but not overwhelming, the patrons are a fun combination of couples and groups, and the venue has a great buzz (yet you can still hold a conversation without feeling the need to shout).
Depot does well what New Zealand is great at: wine and seafood (although their delicious menu extends beyond sea-dwelling critters). With a thoughtful and very Kiwi wine selection they even offer a number of them on tap, so indulging in a carafe (or two) from their stemless glasses is a great option to kick off the evening. With perfectly presented, date-friendly sharing platters on offer the Turbot Sliders are one of their many delicious standouts; and if a little aphrodisiac is on the agenda I highly recommend what’s on offer from their fresh oyster bar.
To add to the enjoyment the waiters are confident, efficient and friendly. On arrival your jacket is instantly hung up, and you’re immediately pointed to the hooks under the table so no awkward flailing about for the handbag if the gals want to do a cheeky touch up their lipstick when their man has popped off to the gents (which are nice and spacious. Good toilets are important).
Depot is stylish without being precious. Fun, fast and fresh it’s a great option if you like your venues the same way you like your dates. Just make sure you get there early as it fills up pretty quickly in the evenings.
Depot - Venue Information
If small and intimate is more your thing Mea Culpa is a great Ponsonby local that offers unfussy sophistication and possibly some of the best cocktails you’ll get your mits on.
Romantic but understatedly sassy this unique little bar is like a great wingman on your case- offering an invisible, helpful presence in setting the right mood (a far cry from the bumbling, unsubtle wingman reality earnestly presented by our friends after a little too much Dutch courage). With flickering candles in understated recycled jars, subtly dimmed lights, comfy bar seats to settle into, you even have the option of ringing in dinner from Renkon next door if your date has progressed from “quick drink” to meal-worthy status.
The wine list is impressive and kept interesting throughout the year and they also offer a great seasonal selection of beers; but it’s their dazzling array of liqueurs and spirits lining the wall that are testament to their impressive (and highly awarded) cocktail selection. The tight-knit bar team is headed up by owner Tim Martin, and when it comes to drinks these guys know their stuff yet are humble about their achievements. Passionate about what they do, they travel nationally and internationally to learn and compete in their craft; and they invite you to use their delicious selection as a jumping-off point rather than a finite offering. Their menu invites you to challenge the bartender with your heart’s desire, and Tim confirms this, explaining that the list should be seen as “guidelines rather than rules.”
Mea Culpa has a lot going for it as a date spot or a catch up with friends. It’s got a great local feel- no one comes in without a friendly nod and an iced water in front of you before you’ve reached your seat. The staff serves you with humour and efficiency and are witty, affable and unobtrusive. If your date takes their time arriving they’ve catered for that too - flick through their menu for some cheeky witticisms to keep you entertained…
Mea Culpa - Venue Information
If relaxed and intimate sounds like the makings of a great date to you then Xuxu (pronounced “Su- su” to avoid mid-date correction by a helpful waiter) is your spot. Still a new kid on the block and conveniently located in the heart of Britomart, it’s brought to us by the same people who created the popular Café Hanoi so you know you’re in safe hands.
Vietnamese themed this little bar offers sophisticated, moody candlelit corners, and intimate, round tables so you can get nice ‘n’ cosy. To take it up a notch you could even whisk your lucky date to the secluded leather love couch- dimly lit with embellished wallpaper, plush curtains and a little added privacy.
The efficient, sharply dressed waiters are relaxed and attentive, the tapas are reasonably priced and their grilled shrimp with pickled veges, peanuts, toasted coconut and perilla are delicious. Sample their wines, champagne or great selections of beers; or for something a bit different order a round of their fortified walnut wine.
With lots of bars and eateries nearby it’s in a great location and a nice way to start an evening and take the edge off with a couple of quiet vinos, or to wind up the night with a cheeky, late cocktail.
Xuxu - Venue Information
If a quintessential K Road hot spot is more up your alley Coco’s is a great fusion of casual dining (tapas or mains) with a bit of spunk. You won’t have to worry about crickets and tumbleweed if conversation falls flat as its popularity ensures there’s a head start on the chatter from the moment you step inside.
Casual, retro and decked out in funky black and white tiles, the tables are adorned with cute little flowers in tiny vases and there’s something about the red checked gingham tablecloth where we were seated that was reminiscent of the Lady and the Tramp spaghetti eating scene. All Disney parallels end there (in the best possible way) with postcards, pictures, and various Polaroids (mostly of current and previous staff in case you were wondering… which we were) adorning the exposed wooden beams in a distinctly Karangahape Road style.
If you’re looking for a bite to eat peruse their handwritten menus for tapas and mains. They’re not the cheapest but they’re delicious (I’d recommend the risotto balls with their crispy shell and tasty, cheesy centre or their goats cheese bruschetta with caramelised onion).
The patrons are a fantastically mixed bag of K Road denizens, grown-up families and hip, young couples. Although Coco’s doesn’t take bookings you’ll be looked after at the bar (where some people appeared to be settling in for the evening) and you’ll we welcomed warmly by the attentive, friendly waitstaff.
Coco's Cantina - Venue Information
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