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Kuikui Lane Is Wellington's New Cocktail Bar Giving Off Strong 'Gran's House' Energy

If you can't go back to gran's house for a bev and a bite, instead opt to be enveloped into the warm awhi of the capital's newest cocktail bar, where manaakitanga abounds.
By Sarah Templeton
January 13, 2022
By Sarah Templeton
January 13, 2022

A recent arrival to Victoria Street inspired by the nans of the world — both living and passed — is hoping to offer patrons an environment where they can feel as taken care of as they did at gran's.

Kuikui Lane is a new gin and cocktail bar from ex-accountants Riann Umaga-Marshall and Hamish Mexted, hospitality first-timers who branched out to create a spot "inspired by the warmth, awhi and quiet, 'no bull' leadership of our grans".

"We wanted Kuikui Lane to be both sophisticated and elegant, carrying these elements of our grandmothers, but also relaxed, warm and inviting," they told Concrete Playground. "We were both heavily influenced by the care and love of our grandmothers, but also their leadership and strength, and we wanted this to show through."

If you've been wanting to improve your Te Reo in 2022, make this your first stop for a lesson. Most of the tapas-style menu is bilingual, so if you feel like a platter you might opt for tihi (cheese), miti (meat) or paraoa (breads).

There are various pararoa pohema (flatbreads) on offer, along with both riwai and kumara chips. You might even opt for Kuikui's mince savouries topped with Wattie's tomato sauce — what could be more reminiscent of hours spent after school at nan's house than that?

"Both of us have Māori heritage, so it was really important that Te Ao Māori was respectfully incorporated into our space," the pair said. "From the tables and their pounamu look, through to the menu and all the small touches, we are proud to have a space that reflects our kuia and the pride we carry in being Māori."

The entire menu, from drinks through to the snacks and bites, pays homage to Aotearoa, with only New Zealand-made products in stock.

"As part of our ethos we aim to choose the most sustainable options including our suppliers. Alongside crafted cocktails we have a range of wines spanning the country, beers brewed from the Wellington region and non-alcoholic beverages and cocktails."

The menu even includes the stories of the brewers behind a mammoth, locally distilled gin selection. Cocktails like the Aotearoa Spritz ($19), a blend of aperitivo, sparkling wine and soda, and the Kapiti Collins ($18), a combination of limoncello, kawakawa gin, mint, lemon and soda, all root the drinker firmly in New Zealand. Even the Espresso Martini ($19) is made with Kapiti L'Affaire Coffee vodka — you can't escape the Kiwi connection here.

If the uncertainty of the year ahead has left you in need of some creature comforts and a little extra aroha, head along for a cocktail and mince pie soon. You'll be left with a sense of warmth and comfort in no time — whether from the sense of manaakitanga or the giant gin selection, it's tough to say.

Kuikui Lane can be found at 120 Victoria Street, open Tuesday  — Thursday 4pm until late, or Friday —  Saturday 2pm to late.

Published on January 13, 2022 by Sarah Templeton
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