The first thing that you notice when you walk into the newly refurbished Imperial Lane is just how much warmer and inviting it is. Previously this space was not just cold, but notoriously nondescript and more of a thoroughfare through to Everybody's upstairs than a destination in itself.
All that has changed thanks to the vision of Ofir Yudlievich who has taken over this space conveniently situated above his fantastic basement whiskey bar, The Jefferson. He's transformed it into a cool, Melbourne-style laneway bar, cafe and eatery with a little help from interior design guru Paul Izzard, who has been responsible for the sleek and stylish design of Auckland eateries Azabu, Baduzzi, Cassia and Gerome to name but a few.
This central city space is as ideal for those looking to grab a bite on the go or wanting to stop and linger. The coffee comes from Auckland boutique Red Rabbit and is exceptionally made by the friendly staff. The food is a modern take on the buffet with a range of Mediterranean salads, French pastries, one hot dish that changes daily and some grab and go options.
While the breakfast and coffee options are great, the new addition of the bar is where this new city central location will truly shine. A range of beers, wines and spirits come served alongside a rotating selection of paddle-style platters and blackboard tapas. I can already envisage sitting here in the Auckland sunshine sipping a wine and soaking up the city to the chilled tunes of the resident DJ. Though it has a screen for those essential rugby moments (and not just any screen, one of the largest in the city), it's fully retractable so will only come out to play when the All Blacks do.
While I was really impressed with the much improved offerings, as a coeliac I will always be critical when dishes don't highlight dietary specifics and I have to ask multiple questions about menu ingredients. One other tiny criticism would be that the daily hot dish of cassoulet had a somewhat rubbery texture — but given the quality of everything else I'm putting it down to early teething problems.
Image: Imperial Lane.