Our weekly look at what’s happening in Wellington on the hospitality scene.
Iconic Wellington café The Lido, now 28 years old, has reopened doors nearly ten months after closing for earthquake restrengthening.
The café occupies the ground floor of the historic former Racing Conference Building on the corner of Victoria and Wakefield streets, one of the most distinctive examples of modernist 1950s architecture, with its curved glass windows.
The building was considered earthquake-prone and was yellow-stickered for falling below 33 per cent of new building standards.
When the café closed last September last year, it was estimated that strengthening work would take five months to complete, at an estimated cost of $716,000, with the Wellington City Council granting $60,000 towards the cost.
Frank De Roose spent nearly two decades as chef in the Lido kitchen and is now sole owner as well as head chef, having bought the business from David George who owned the café since 1999.
It’s great, he says, for the building to have “the bones in good nick”; there was always a concern for staff and customers about being in a building that needed serious strengthening.
The strengthening has also provided the opportunity for a style revamp, sticking with what made the Lido great, but making the room “lighter and brighter”, and adding more colour.
The new look was developed in-house.
“David had the idea for the copper cladding for the counter and bought the pendant lights. The furniture and colours were chosen to fit in with that.”
Similarly, the menu has retained cornerstone Lido classics like kedgeree, and chicken tenderloins. But now there are more options of shared plates, with Frank’s love of the vegetable cuisine of his native Belgium and Mediterranean and Middle Eastern countries, emphasised with a menu that is more plant-based than previously.
The Lido has always been a great daytime destination. Frank is hoping for more dinner custom, though they’ll still be closed Monday and Sunday nights, and won’t be having live music on the Sundays in the immediate future. The changes to retail in the Victoria Street area just south of The Lido has been enhanced greatly in recent months, with the redevelopment of Bond Street and opening of Pie and Pickle, plus a number of new or relocated fashion outlets including Rex Royale, Huffer and Good As Gold joining World, Alchemy, Amazon and others.
“It’s a whole new fashion precinct.”
The intersection of Vivian and Cuba Streets has had a hospitality upgrade, with long-time landmarks The Flying Burrito Brothers and Logan Brown, and welcome 2008 addition Ombra, now joined by Chooky’s Pub and Pantry.
Chooky’s, which had a soft launch last weekend and an official opening on Tuesday night, replaces the Bad Grannies bar. It’s under the same ownership, but a very different ambience: Kiwiana atmosphere and community feel, with daytime café fare, craft beers, live music, board game and weekly quiz nights. And the gaming machines are gone, which can only be a good thing.
Just down the road, Olive has been closed since 4 June, as the building at 170 Cuba Street undergoes earthquake restrengthening and renovations. Until it reopens on 18 July, Olive will serving menu items every day to the Moore Wilson food pods between Lorne and College streets.
This weekend, Winetopia returns to the TSB Bank Arena on Queens Wharf with three sessions across two days: Friday 29 June (5pm – 8.30pm) and Saturday 30 June (12pm to 3.30pm, and 4.30pm to 8pm.
Hundreds of wines from 60 local wineries are available by 30ml pours, with winemakers in attendance, and many artisanal food offerings. ‘Share a Glass’ sessions will be conducted with famous faces, alongside tasting seminars with the likes of Master of Wine Stephen Wong and renowned Australian wine expert Nick Stock, and free educational talks and tastings.
Music will be provided by The Ol’ Dirty Brass Band, an exclusive one-off performance featuring trombonist Joe Lindsay, singer Lisa Tomlins, drummer Riki Gooch and saxophonist Lucien Johnson.
Winetopia is the perfect warm-up for the feast of events on offer across the city during VISA Wellington on a Plate, which celebrates its tenth anniversary from 10 to 26 August. More on that in the weeks to come, but if you want to get amongst it, book now – the Beer Geek and Day Passes for Beervana on Friday 10 and Saturday 11 August are already sold out.