8 August 2012
An intimate new cocktail hideaway opens its doors in Auckland’s Britomart precinct.
The evolution of the Britomart precinct continues this week with the opening of its newest hospitality outpost. Xuxu is described as a French Vietnamese inspired cocktail bar, and is the younger sibling to the wildly popular Café Hanoi restaurant across the street. The space, once previously home to Smith Bar, has been expertly transformed in just three short weeks by Britomart design maestro Nat Cheshire, and is now a little slice of Asian influenced paradise.
Cheshire’s interior scheme brings the Asian theme to life. A series of coloured stained glass lights hang from the ceiling, while bamboo patterned wallpaper covers the walls and soft draping peacock emblazoned curtains frame the windows. These details all add to the opulence and authenticity of the interior, giving it an elegant Eastern vibe.
Against the back wall is a white and turquoise tiled mosaic wall. Ping, a Chinese tiler, has painstakingly pieced together tiny shards of smashed china to create a backdrop for the intimate booth seating. There’s also a cabinet of curiosities created by Zora Bell Boyd from Wunderkummer. Inside the glass cabinet is an intricate collection of taxidermy, antiques, ornate bottles, ornaments and a glowing red neon ‘Xuxu’ motif sitting upon a tiny mound of Chinese dominoes.
Executive chef Jason van Dorsten of Café Hanoi brings his expertise to the light menu of appetisers on offer. The ever-popular perilla leaf, hard to track down in New Zealand, makes a welcome appearance on Xuxu’s menu. Grilled shrimp, pickled veges and toasted coconut are all wrapped up in the crunchy goodness of the perilla leaves and are rather morish when paired with a cocktail. Also on offer is a Vietnamese take on beef jerky. The dried beef, accompanied by fresh lime, also comes with a bowl of hot chilli sauce for the more adventurous. All of the dishes have the Hanoi spice factor, however if you’re after a real kick, the bowl of scorched chillies, smoked eggplant and coriander root will really get you beading up.
You won’t find bar leaners at Xuxu, instead they offer the more sophisticated option of table service, both inside and in the outdoor courtyard. With an extensive list of Asian inspired cocktails available, we tasted the ‘Walk in the Garden’, a refreshing palette cleanser made from fennel infused gin, fresh lime, agave liqueur and celery juice, the perfect accompaniment to the spicy food on offer.
Xuxu is not a fast paced in-and-out bar, it’s designed for those who enjoy sitting back and savouring the moment with friends, perfect for gatherings where conversation is on the agenda. It’s also a great place to stop for pre-dinner drinks while you wait for a table to become available at one of the increasingly busy restaurants in the area. Open Monday to Saturday, from 3pm to late, Xuxu is sure to be a popular addition to the burgeoning Britomart scene.
Cnr Galway & Commerce Sts