East Street Hall opened in November in what used to be the community hall of the Congregational Hall of Jesus, a Samoan church on East Street, just off Auckland’s Karangahape Road. It’s a fine brick building, with big steel windows and a view over Newton Gully. There are generous double-glass doors, mid-century details and soaring ceilings. “We wanted it to still feel like a hall,” says Henry Temple, who co-owns the bar and eatery with business partners Emma Ogilvie and Nick Landsman. “We wanted it to be a nod to those halls around Aotearoa, where people go for a meeting, for a wedding, or they go for dinner or maybe a pint. It’s a meeting place.”
The area has a colourful history and while it has gentrified in recent years, there’s still something raffish about the narrow streets that run off Karangahape Road. Although the hall was painted white when they took it on, the space was never going to be a crisp minimalist box. “I think the white triggered my response,” says designer Katie Lockhart. “I just felt like it needed a youthful tone.” Instead, she referenced the bright, clashing colours of the Pacific to create something sophisticated and upbeat.
The idea was for a modern canteen, with food inspired by a typical Tel Aviv menu – pita and flavour-packed small plates, with the addition of natural wines and excellent cocktails. It’s flexible – you might stop by for a drink, or go to eat, or you might go for a drink and end up staying for dinner. There might be a band playing or a party on the go. Catering to these various outcomes is a handful of lower tables and banquette seats, as well as taller tables and stools.
With a huge space and a limited budget, Lockhart’s approach was to use strong colour and inexpensive materials to create warmth and joy. She painted most of the space in Aalto Whiti, an orange-red inspired by the building’s red brick. It’s instantly warming and enveloping, and contrasted with Formica tables and cabinetry in navy, light blue, lilac and orange. “From dancing to food to alcohol, God knows what’s going to happen there,” says Lockhart, laughing. “We needed durable surfaces and Formica gave us a great colour palette to play with.”
The finishing touches are clever and economical. There are upcycled purple PH5 lights by Louis Poulsen, sourced from a Christchurch dealer and rehabbed into wall lights. There are black Tokyo stools for OMK 1965, designed in 1985 by Professor Rodney Kinsman, and art on loan from their neighbour Michael Lett, including works by Martin Creed and Dane Mitchell. There’s also a courtyard out the back with German beer-hall tables.
Temple is delighted. There’s a view over the City Rail Link, which is being constructed at the bottom of the street, and across to Newton Gully. “That’s the nice thing about a new space,” says Temple. “You’re looking at a new view, with a glass of wine, in a place you never thought you’d sit, looking out over the city.”
East Street Hall
5 East St, Newton, Tāmaki Makaurau Auckland