First Look: Our Cellar at The French Cafe
Photos by Emma Hayes, words by Alice Harbourne.
The team of staff who run The French Cafe are so palpably proud of what they do they’re almost of another time, a time when careers were fixed and company loyalty sincerely deep. Michelle Moore has been maître d alongside Craig Lovie for four and a half years now, and is a reminder of a time when restaurants were attended for the welcoming host rather than the star chef.
The French Cafe, obviously, can claim both a star chef and star hosts, in addition to star everything else – if Michelin were a Southern Hemisphere thing they’d be a shoo-in. The restaurant is adding more strings to its bow this spring with the opening of new intimate dining room Our Cellar, to complement the larger existing function space, The French Kitchen.
Unbeknown to most, the courtyard The French Cafe backs onto until quite recently was shared with neighbouring tenants. This meant that in the height of summer, diners at Auckland’s finest restaurant would occasionally witness the incongruous sight of laundry drying in the sunshine.
Good fortune has it that the bottom floor of the house next door has now been handed over to Creghan Molloy and Simon Wright to create a beautiful wine cellar and dining room. You can tell it used to be a house: the ceilings are lower than those of the restaurant and French Kitchen, and that works to create an instant sense of intimacy and homeliness that the sparser dining spaces don’t afford.
The dimly-lit room has been tastefully decorated by Katie Lockhart and Grant Bailey with bespoke furniture, Monmouth Glass lamps and laser-cut lattice panels. The centrepiece of the room is a spacious custom built wine cabinet boasting a library of varieties handpicked by award-winning sommelier Andy Gladding.
Although Our Cellar won’t be open for another month or so, Moore has already been inundated with enquiries. “It’s the perfect space for people who want to have a meeting that leads into a long, leisurely lunch”, she says, “or for those who really care about wine. This is Andy’s territory and he’ll be so proud to share his knowledge in a dedicated space.”
The dining room can accommodate a minimum of four diners and a maximum of 10. For larger groups, The French Kitchen can seat 12-30 people – if there are 11 of you, perhaps it’s worth losing a friend?
Our Cellar will be open in the spring, but you can register your interest via the website: thefrenchcafe.co.nz. A tasting menu of $140pp will be available, with additional pairing wines $80pp.