As part of our Faces of the City series, we chatted with Marion Emmanuelle, partner at AvroKO Hospitality Group - the team behind three renowned NYC hospitality concepts that recently joined Commercial Bay - The Poni Room, Ghost Donkey and Liquorette. We asked her to give us some insights into these three iconic restaurants, as well as what makes Auckland's city centre and Commercial Bay a special and unique destination.

Marion Emmanuelle

The Poni Room, Ghost Donkey and Liquorette are the first restaurants you have opened in New Zealand, tell us a bit about what brought you to Auckland?

These three hospitality concepts are our first in New Zealand and we are really excited about bringing a little bit of NYC to Auckland, with a unique Kiwi twist. The more we learnt about Commercial Bay and everything the development promised for Auckland, the more we knew we wanted to be a part of it.

AvroKO Hospitality Group has a long-standing, special relationship with New Zealand and the Auckland hospitality industry, with many of our team across our offices being Kiwis themselves! With world-class restaurants and bars, hospitality talent, some of the best produce in the world and a city full of enthusiastic food and drink lovers, Auckland has long been in our sights as a dining mecca down under.

Can you give us an insight into the concepts for each of these restaurants, and what will make them different to anything else in Auckland?

The Poni Room is set to lift the energy of Auckland’s dining scene. It’s a place to get together with friends and family, mix, mingle and ultimately, be social! The menu features a mix of our all time favorite pan Asian dishes, and we are thrilled to be able to offer this fare with a stunning backdrop of Auckland Harbour. We are most excited about the interactive beverage programme which invites guests to venture into The Rosé Room, pick a favourite from the extensive wine list and serve themselves!

At its core, Ghost Donkey is a lively, vibrant mezcal and tequila bar that embodies the heart and soul of Mexican hospitality. With 35+ mezcals and tequilas on the menu, Ghost Donkey is proud to have the largest offering of the top selection of each style in Auckland and our team are thrilled to have the opportunity to tell the stories of these spirits in a new city full of people who have a real appreciation for excellent drinking experiences. Ghost Donkey in NYC just won ‘Best Cocktail Bar’ by Imbibe magazine, we are thrilled to be bringing a dynamic NYC concept to Auckland.

Liquorette is an American casual cocktail counter with drinks and pizza to enjoy in or takeaway. Inspired by the bodegas, superettes and liquor stores that are ubiquitous in NYC and LA, Liquorette’s beverage programme promises a very special experience. We are particularly excited to see Kiwis enjoy the takeaway cocktail kits.

Each concept will bring a never-before-seen dining experience to Auckland with innovative and interactive elements that will engage Kiwis in new ways and promise very memorable hospitality moments. We know there is an appetite here for international concepts that offer something a little different and The Poni Room, Ghost Donkey and Liquorette will certainly fulfill this desire.

With world-class restaurants and bars, hospitality talent, some of the best produce in the world and a city full of enthusiastic food and drink lovers, Auckland has long been in our sights as a dining mecca down under.

These restaurants are led by executive chef Brad Farmerie? Tell us a bit about Brad and his background?

Brad is our AHG executive chef and partner who will be overseeing the New Zealand menus and comes to the table with an extensive background of culinary experience. Some of Brad’s earlier career highlights were actually working at Peter Gordon’s The Sugar Club in 1996 in London, then later helping him open The Providores. Upon moving to the United States, Brad opened PUBLIC with AvroKO Hospitality Group in 2003 and has been a key part in the opening of some of our most iconic restaurants across the US and Russia, and now New Zealand!

What dishes or drinks should we most look forward to from each of the restaurants?

It’s hard to beat the oysters with our signature Thai mignonette at the Poni Room when you’re looking out at the sweeping harbour view! We also pride ourselves on having a wide vegetarian and vegan offering at The Poni Room, some favorites are the mushroom ceviche and daikon fries.

The ‘Nacho Especiales’ at Ghost Donkey are a huge crowd favourite also. Chef Farmerie has created a selection of nachos like you’ve never seen before... featuring some classics, but also some more surprising combinations including huitlacoche and truffles.

Tell us a bit about the dining experience at Commercial Bay and what makes it so special?

I visited Auckland four years ago as part of the initial strategy and concept development work our sister agency Brand Bureau did for Harbour Eats, the food hall within Commercial Bay. We were lucky to hear all about Commercial Bay from its inception and fell in love with the vision: a true world-class mixed-use development set to transform the heart of central Auckland. We’d always dreamt of bringing our hospitality concepts to Auckland, so this seemed like the perfect opportunity to do so. We are so proud to be part of something that will make a real mark in the city’s hospitality history.

Can you tell us a little bit more about Saxon + Parole?

Saxon + Parole will be opening its doors to New Zealand later this year in a breath-taking space that will transport Kiwis to The Big Apple as it pays homage to its strong NYC roots. A Bowery-born modern steakhouse and cocktail bar with a triple height space that overlooks the Waitematā Harbour, the menu will bring a classic American fare to Auckland, with contemporary touches that celebrate the bounty of NZ. Alongside the world-class food offering, you can expect seasonally-driven cocktails and thoughtfully-curated wine and beer lists prepared and served by an award winning beverage team.

Last updated: 08 July 2020

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