International Style

Rufus Knight designs a new restaurant for Josh Emett.

International Style

Rufus Knight designs a new restaurant for Josh Emett.

Onslow is a city restaurant. Housed towards the back of The International’s foyer on Auckland’s Princes St, you can slip through to the balcony for an uninterrupted view of a looming Sky Tower, jutting out over the crowded skyline. But with 17 levels of residential apartments wrapped in latticed exoskeleton above them, it feels of something else, too: a neighbourhood local.

For chef Josh Emett and his English partner, Helen, Onslow is a way to finally put down permanent roots in Auckland, eight years after moving their family back to New Zealand. It’s a place that is completely their own, modelled after the relaxed restaurants they loved to dine at while living in New York, where they met. “Sophisticated, but not fine dining,” says Emett. 

That intention is reflected in the fitout, where The International’s muted palette of marble floors and tiled walls are given a richness with dark oak. Vertical battening runs through the centre and above the bar, and, along with stone and soft floor-to-ceiling linen curtains, works to give the room texture and detail to elevate it from classic bistro – a starting point for the design. “It was an interesting challenge from the outset,” says designer Rufus Knight, “to provide a level of comfort and sophistication. You’ll have people eating breakfast on a daily basis, but obviously you want it to feel special for those here for an occasion.” The ethos, therefore, was simple: timelessness.

This project is Knight’s first restaurant, and the nitty-gritty of hospitality practicalities proved difficult at times. “I think we’re lucky to be working with Josh, because he has such a lineage, and is very experienced with the functional elements of running a restaurant,” he says. Ultimately, it was a collaborative project – Onslow also features the work of Sonja Hawkins, an interior designer who helped ensure a lived-in warmth among formal, structured lines.

The idea of timelessness threads through everywhere, including the service – “I love old-school service,” says Emett – and the food, too: classic European dining influenced by his time overseas. “My headspace is more on what I did in the UK and New York,” he says. “When I came back to New Zealand, I was very focused on what I thought New Zealand food was – but my approach to this is a little bit more international.” Fitting, then, for The International. 

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