East Street Hall is as community-focused as the town halls all over Aotearoa that inspired it. With decor, food and drinks all cleverly designed to encourage conversation and relaxation, this bar from the teams behind Bar Céleste and Annabel’s, is a recipe for the perfect afternoon in the sun.
In 1979, a prison in Seattle painted some of their cells pink in order to determine the effects this might have on prisoners. The shade, Baker-Miller pink, initially did work to reduce aggression - before the effects wore off and inmates reverted to their less-than-calm ways.
Fast-forward to today, and that same shade is popular among millennials looking to create interiors that are soft, nostalgic and comfortable shelters from the ‘year from hell’. It’s a colour that has become a motif of our era.
At East Street Hall, that millennial hue has grown up. Here, it's accented on tables, and a darker, earthier pinky-brown version colours the walls alongside cobalt, lilac and exposed brick. Henry Temple, one of the owners, explains that adobe pink-brown is the colour of the walls in Maori meeting houses. It's a colour of coming together and talking - and that couldn't be more appropriate here.
The hall is a collaboration between Henry, of Annabel's Wine Bar, and Bar Céleste's Emma Ogilvie and Nick Landsman, plus the creative talents of interior designer Katie Lockhart. Those names all carry positive associations from afternoons sipping prosecco at Céleste, and evenings enjoying cocktails at Annabel's - and fans of those venues won’t be disappointed. East Street Hall could be the perfect place to relax and unwind after work.
The sunny courtyard is graced with a DJ every evening - though inside there's poppy and very palatable jazz playing over the speakers during my visit. There are often actual jazz bands there too - keep an eye out for their regular concerts in the evenings, as well as markets on the weekend featuring ceramics, fashion and art.
It's fitting that the space is used as such a community hub, since it used to be the dining hall of the Samoan Church next door. It's modelled after the community meeting halls - dotted all over New Zealand – that are host to craft markets, meetings, scouts or any other community activity, as well as the public spaces in Paris in which people gather in their free time.
But it's unlikely that the food and wine you had at those community halls was as good, and as conducive to conversation, as it is here. The plates are all nibble-able platters of Jewish Israeli bites that you can share among friends (or gobble all on your own) – the falafel plate is light, crispy and flavourful; the raw snapper is decadently olive oil-drenched, piquant crudo (pictured top) has enough jalapeño spice to give it a proper kick but not overwhelm the subtle flavour of the fish.
Felafel plate and the interior at East Street Hall.
The roasted whole cauliflower is a favourite among patrons, and the kitchen often has a special or two so there's always something new to try, but my pick is the labneh and pide flat bread. The simple whipped yoghurt with olive oil and bread that was so fluffy I was worried it might float away. Yet there was just enough char on the bread so that it was flavourful and I couldn't stop nibbling. Wash it down with East Street Hall's signature East Side cocktail (predominantly comprised of soda and gin with cucumber and mint) and you have yourself the perfect afternoon in the sun.
East Side cocktail, Weingut brand 'Wilder Satz' Orange wine from Pfalz, Germany.
However, you can't leave without sampling the wine list. With so many excellent wine bars in the area (Clay, Bar Céleste, Madame George plus the very decent wine list at burger-bar Lowbrow), East Street Hall more than holds its own (unsurprising, considering the team behind the hall!). Not only will you find plenty of local and international offerings on the drinks list, but a selection of orange wines, and tipples that are processed in interesting ways: hand-harvested, organic, or indigenous yeast fermented. And everything bar the magnum bottles is available by the glass.
East Street Hall is certainly a recipe for relaxation. But more than the average breezy, casual space with great food, it also breeds community and conversation.
East Street Hall