First Look: Regatta Bar & Eatery and Franc's
It’s easy to be suspicious when a business owner claims they’ve been inundated with thanks simply for opening their doors. But when you’re standing on the balcony of Regatta Bar & Eatery and owner-manager Andy Ruzich says it, you believe him. Alongside its sister eatery, the neighbouring Franc’s, Regatta sits on one of the city’s prime waterfront sites, a strip of Takapuna’s Strand that previously had been given over to office blocks and carparking.
“People tell me they’ve been waiting years for something like this,” says Ruzich. “Finally Takapuna is starting to make the most of its incredible beach views.”
A large L-shaped room surrounded by folding glass doors, Regatta’s interior takes inspiration from the ocean outside. Floors are decorated with fish-scale-like scalloped tiles; maritime colours of navy, teal-blue and white are used throughout.
Hanging above the kitchen are a series of old-school wooden signs advertising the fish and seafood on offer. The boards are swapped out as many as five times a day, as one fish sells out and the kitchen takes delivery of another. Beneath the boards, in a strikingly open-plan kitchen, works head chef Richard Highnam, whose background includes Kermadec and his own The Old Church Restaurant in Hawke’s Bay.
Possibly the only thing Highnam loves more than the view from the pass is his new piece of kit, a monster-sized wood-fired grill. They stoke the fires in the morning; by lunchtime the bricks are the perfect temperature for cooking fish, steaks and seafood. “We were inspired by the cooking we do ourselves,” says Ruzich. “When you cook fish on the beach, you do it on a grill.”
Open for just over a week, Regatta is still the new kid on the block. Two doors down is Franc’s, the all-day café and bar that opened just before Christmas (Tokyo Bay, a Japanese restaurant from the people behind Ponsonby Central’s Tokyo Club, sits between them). Franc’s manager Dayna Siarkiewicz remembers the day they opened: “It was ‘Black Friday’, the Friday before Christmas – one of the busiest days in hospitality. We opened at 5pm; by quarter-past the place was packed.” Somehow, they survived service and Franc’s has been busy ever since.
If Regatta is an upscale beach house, Franc’s is a bach that’s been in the family for years. With its plain concrete floor and plywood panelling, Franc’s is the sort of place you can head to straight from the beach, in bare feet, for a plate of southern-fried chicken wings and a beer. Head chef Duncan McKenna worked under Benjamin Bayly at The Grove and Baduzzi, and his menu, while casual, is more ambitious than you might expect: free-range chicken thigh comes with preserved lemon, medjool dates and watercress tabbouleh; chermoula smoked calamari is served in a rich stew if tomatoes, chickpeas and marinated eggplant.
Draught beers include a range from Wellington’s Black Dog Brewing and the coffee is from local organic gurus Kokako. And should you be in a hurry to get back to the beach, there’s a mobile Kapiti ice cream stand for a cone on the go. Fingers crossed for an endless summer.