A Shore local from way back, I have had a love hate relationship with the East Coast Bays for their beguiling beaches yet total and utter lack of decent places to wine and dine. But that has all since changed. The opening of The Shore's answer to Imperial Lane – The Commons - a new multi-space bar and eatery has finally put Takapuna on the dining map and it certainly impressed.
Offering everything from a late morning coffee, casual lunch or dinner or Friday night drinks, The Commons is located on Hurstmere Road and centres around an impressive open internal courtyard, flanked by five distinct but interconnected spaces, which share or overlook this 'common' outdoor area.
On the ground floor, a casual and inviting bar space flows out into the courtyard with exclusive outdoor seating. A bistro restaurant on the seaward side features a two-story atrium and stunning light installation. Upstairs, a mezzanine level offers more seating for drinking and dining with views overlooking the courtyard, and a more formal degustation room offers a view of Rangitoto.
With all-day alfresco dining and drinking, the courtyard features a seven metre long bar. A 'living wall' of real grass fronts the bar, complemented by another green wall behind the bar lush with bamboo, ivy and other creepers. Unique retractable tulip parasols create an intimate dining and drinking experience while providing protection from the elements.
Executive Chef Nick Honeyman (ex Sale St and French Café) heads the Commons kitchen and has designed the menu to make you think about what you're eating, his conceptual creations play with different flavours, techniques and styles, reinterpreting them in unexpected ways.
This sense of discovery is taken a step further in the degustation room or 'Common Room', in which there is literally no menu from which to pick and choose. Instead diners choose how many courses they want, with the wait staff keeping note of any likes and dislikes, and the kitchen decides what to prepare.
Not to be outdone by the kitchen, the bar's extensive cocktail list includes six pages of delectable options ranging from classic to serious, to light and refreshing or aromatic and breezy, and the ideal tipple for brunch or lunch. The 50-strong wine list includes predominantly New Zealand varietals, with the 'deg room' boasting an impressive cellar collection of New Zealand and international wines and smaller, handcrafted varieties. There's also a strong focus on beer with something for everyone including some lesser-known craft beers.
On the opposite side of the courtyard, the intimate Little Empire bar is the ideal spot to relax with an after dinner aperitif. With spirits and cocktails taking pride of place, there's an interesting mix of high-end and rare spirits and some serious cocktails - like flaming 'blazers' – as well as a great wine list.
Also on this side of the courtyard and fronting Hurstmere Road is European-style bakery and patisserie Elske. Meaning "to love" in Danish, this is the third offering from Michelin-star trained Danish pastry chef Kristina Jensen, with successful city-side outlets in Imperial Lane and Newmarket. Sharing floor space with Little Empire, the clever repositioning of a sliding velvet wall and bookcase with hidden revolving door sees the space morph from coffees to cocktails come late afternoon.
21 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna