First look: Hugo’s Bistro

Google the history of Shortland Street and you’ll quickly be lost down TV memory lane, but it’s the upmarket heritage of the actual road – Auckland’s first commercial thoroughfare – that informed the feel of new all-day restaurant Hugo’s Bistro.

Despite technically being the younger sibling to Odettes Eatery, Hugo’s (yes, apostrophes are esoterically employed) feels like the grown-up. Situated midway up the steep street, once known for its high-end boutiques, the rectangular space has been transformed into an intimate, sophisticated dining room by restaurant co-owner Clare van den Berg. Her signature attention to detail and appreciation for comfort manifests in tactile surfaces, luxurious light fittings and understated artworks.

The fourth Auckland eatery by Clare and her husband Joost van den Berg, who began with now-sold cafes Zus & Zo and Zomer, shelves Dutch nomenclature for an aesthetically pleasing first name.  “Going forward as a model, we wanted beautiful names that fit the space and where it is in the city,” says Clare. “We thought Hugo’s and Odettes go really well together.”

Clare’s design process for Hugo’s began with four colours – forest green, blush, brass and grey – introduced in contrasting textures, from corduroy to New Zealand cedar. Although the space had been a restaurant in several former lives, the team gutted it to start anew. They added a street-side awning and floor-to-ceiling glass doors, which will open fully on hot summer days, making breakfast, lunch and dinner (though there are actually two menus, “earlier” and “later”) feel distinctly European. Classic bistro design touches like Peugeot pepper mills and bespoke Thonet chairs extend the subtle theme, as do executive chef Josh Kucharick’s menus. Odettes fans will be familiar with Canadian-born Kucharick’s contemporary, hero ingredient-focused style, but at Hugo’s he riffs on Continental classics, with dishes such as sirloin, pasta, pistou and lemon; and brisket, creamed spinach, Dijon and rye.

On less sunny days and in the evenings, statement light fittings – from a trio of Lee Broom Crescent Lights to custom-made wall lamps – emit a warm glow over the cosy, living room-like space and its Marmorino-plastered (a centuries-old Italian plastering technique) wall.  As you can tell, you can learn a lot of new words sitting in Hugo’s – every surface, object and artwork has a backstory. Lucky then, that familiar Odettes faces like Poi Eruera – now operations manager across the two restaurants – will be on hand with the details.

Hugo's Bistro
67 Shortland Street

Central city