First Look: The Crew Club
By Catherine McGregor. Photos by Ken Downie.
In Auckland we’re lucky to have plenty of places we can eat and drink by the water. But to be right on the water, with just a balcony railing between you and the sea – that’s rare.
And that’s what makes The Crew Club so special. The new bar/restaurant, opening tonight on the old Waterfront Cafe site is, in realtor-speak, “ absolute waterfront”, boasting glorious views across the harbour. Historic boats belonging to the Voyager New Zealand Maritime Museum, The Crew Club’s landlord, are moored outside and – unlike so many of the floating gin palaces elsewhere in the Viaduct – are continually in use.
The Crew Club has come up with a brilliantly unique way of making the most of its enviable position. A multi-level deck (which they’ve dubbed “the grandstand”) is strewn with cushions and floor pillows – perfect for lounging. Designers Jasmax have added slots for lightweight tray tables, which can be inserted and removed as needed; felted duffel stools by New Zealand designer Tim Webber provide extra seating.
Inside, the room has been completely made over. A sea-green and white colour scheme, pale wood furniture and tongue-and-groove panelling give the place a sophisticated beach-house feel. Bright geometric patterns reference maritime signal flags, and sight lines have been improved to create unimpeded views of the sea, wherever you sit.
Andy Roberts of operator Barworks says honouring the building’s history – it dates from the 1930s, when it was the harbour’s main base for launches and charters – was important to everyone involved. “Particularly given our relationship to the Maritime Museum, we wanted The Crew Club to feel really connected to the sea, and the people who work on it.”
Head chef Nick Haszard ran the kitchen at dine by Peter Gordon for a number of years, and spent last year helping to bring Jamie Oliver’s chain of Italian restaurants to the Australian market. He says Oliver’s focus on making great food accessible has been an inspiration. “I’m just not a gel-and-foam kind of chef,” he says.
His menu is full of the kind of classics you want to eat on the water – local shellfish, whole roast fish, crayfish rolls, properly aged steak – and lots of snacks, small plates and group grazing options. Haszard is a chef who loves good ingredients used in an interesting way: his carrots are a mix of fresh and pickled, with goats cheese, granola and thyme; apple-fed free range chicken comes with slow braised eggplant and almonds; bresaola is served scattered with cherries, pomegranate seeds and brazil nuts.
There’s an extensive wine list, with plenty by the glass – including “curious whites” and “interesting reds” – beers from Wellington’s Black Dog Brewery on tap (plus a range of Monteith’s craft-beer style Brewer’s Series in the bottle), and a well-chosen spirit list.
Aucklanders rarely think of the Viaduct as a place to have brunch, but the morning menu at The Crew Club, available from 10am on weekdays, and from 8am on weekends, might just change some minds: dishes like plum and pecan French toast with puffed spelt crumble or baked eggs with spiced white beans and flat bread wouldn’t look out of place on a Ponsonby Rd menu.
The Crew Club
167-171 Quay St