in the centre
of waterfront

Kiwi Tavern, 3 Britomart Place.

Kiwi Tavern, 3 Britomart Place

Newly refurbished and targeting a 5 Green Star rating, the Kiwi Tavern Building is a little building with a big history. The original home of two innovative, century-old New Zealand companies, as well as a series of legendary bars and eateries that changed the face of downtown drinking and dining, it has a unique place in Auckland’s history.

It was commissioned in 1910 by William and Sarah Worrall, owners of a ceramic business that eventually evolved into a bicycle importer. They called on John Currie, one of the founders of the New Zealand Institute of Architects, who designed a building that was graceful but unusual; a three-storey classical Italianate brick masonry warehouse with a distinctive series of unequal round and flat arched window bays on the eastern frontage. The largest bay accommodated a cart dock, while the smallest led to a slim staircase that developed a fearsome reputation among later users of the building.

From the 1920s, the lower floors of the building were occupied by W.R. Twigg and Company, marine engineers who later expanded into stationary engines. After the unexpected death of the founder, William Twigg, who was attacked by a wounded lion while on safari in Rhodesia, the company passed into other hands.

In the 1970s, the building entered a new era. Restaurateur Emerald Gilmour brought modern bistro dining to the downtown area with her incredibly successful restaurant Clichy. At the time, Auckland had no more than a handful of restaurants, most of them in hotels or offering fine dining, and few of them possessed of Clichy’s sense of fun.

Later in the 1970s, another restaurant, Maxwell’s, drew crowds to the building and in the early 1990s, 12 years after Clichy closed, Emerald Gilmour opened a new enterprise, Tatler, in the same space, with a bar, Spectator, upstairs. They were succeeded by the Kiwi Tavern, a cheerfully rowdy pub, live music venue and pool hall that drew students and backpackers. In a case of history repeating, in 2012, Emerald’s daughter Mimi Gilmour and her business partner Nick McCaw opened the first of the now-successful chain of Mexico restaurants on the same site as Clichy.