Gin lovers, this stunning garden bar is the destination you need to discover on Waiheke Island

A day trip over to Waiheke Island never goes amiss, and a new off-the-beaten-track destination will have gin lovers flocking to the island’s east side. Named Waiheke Distilling Co., this artisan gin producer is the brainchild of Liz Scott and Glen Cadwallader who had a vision to champion the local botanicals that grow in abundance in the area while also allowing visitors to enjoy the beauty of the surroundings.

Located relatively close to Man O’ War on the ridge above Cowes Bay, with a spectacular view out onto Pakatoa Island and over to the Coromandel, Waiheke Distilling Co. is not only the birthplace of three brand new gins, but home to a stunning garden bar as well.

With both the gins and the bar having launched on 23rd January, the distillery’s garden bar summer series is open Thursday to Monday throughout the warmer months — and given the extremely enthusiastic response, online booking is crucial to avoid disappointment. 

The journey to the distillery is an adventure in itself, consisting of a 40 minute drive from the ferry terminal on the western side of the island. Once you’re out there, you can expect a casual setting with picnic tables and deck chairs in prime position to take in the breathtaking surroundings, and of course some delicious gin cocktails. 

Waiheke Distilling Co.’s signature gin is the Spirit of Waiheke, and is unique in that it is infused with giant kelp which gives the otherwise citrus-forward spirit a slightly salty twist. The London Dry sees the company’s take on a classic spiced up with cardamom and red pepper, and the Red Ruby is an attractively deep rouge shade, thanks to an infusion of fresh cherries.

For the summer series, the distillery has collaborated with Auckland bar Clipper to create a range of moreish frozen gin cocktails, each blended with a rosé from a different Waiheke vineyard. There are also gin and Fever Tree tonic cocktails available, as well as non-alcoholic options, and should you be peckish a selection of antipasti, cheese and fruit platters are on offer, showcasing delicious local products like Waiheke scotch eggs, fresh bread from Man O’ War and Te Matuku oysters, as well as Island Gelato ice cream.

While we all love a long lunch at one of Waiheke’s unquestionably excellent wineries, if you’re looking for an extra stop to add to your day — or if you’re after something a little different — we think Waiheke Distilling Co. might be the destination for you.

Opening hours:
Thursday to Monday — 10:00am – 6:00pm

Bookings essential

Waiheke Distilling Co.

258 Cowes Bay Road
Waiheke Island

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop
Prosciutto pizza with mozzarella, prosciutto, parmesan, rocket and anchovy vinaigrette
Chef Ivan Janic (right)
The Margherita features housemade tomato sauce that took two years to perfect

The Master & Margherita is a Grey Lynn eatery serving must-try Roman-style pizza

Pizza night is now even better thanks to a recently-opened pizzeria that’s slinging some seriously delicious slices. The Master & Margherita has taken up residence in Grey Lynn, within what used to be the iconic yellow dairy on Surrey Crescent. Chef Ivan Janic took over the site last year, renovating to include a commercial kitchen and importing a custom-made pizza oven from Naples, Italy, from which his delicious fire-kissed pizzas emerge perfectly cooked. 

Right: Bianca pizza with mozzarella, brie, gorgonzola, grana padano, rosemary and olive oil

Janic has been in the industry for over 20 years — originally from Serbia, he came to New Zealand in 2009 and has worked under Simon Gault and Josh Emmett, plus former Grey Lynn restaurant Siostra and various other eateries in Auckland. Throughout it all, Janic’s passion for pizza has remained unbridled, and after eating “a lot of bad pizzas”, he knew it was time to take matters into his own hands.

The Master & Margherita (named after Janic’s favourite book of a similar name by Mickhail Bulgakov) specialises in Roman-style pizzas. Thinner and wider in diameter than their Neapolitan counterparts, these 15-inch sourdough beauties have a pillowy crust yet aren’t super doughy overall, which lends a welcome lightness. 

Left: Prawn pizza with chilli and garlic marinated prawns, spinach, zucchini, mozzarella and red peppers

The namesake Margherita comprises Janic’s housemade tomato base that he took two years to perfect, topped with New Zealand mozzarella — both grilled then finished with fresh dollops — fresh basil and olive oil. It’s simple and delicious, as a Margherita should be. The menu includes both classic and more inventive flavours, with familiars like a prosciutto pizza, and a four-cheese pizza on offer alongside a chilli prawn rendition with capsicum and zucchini, and a green-based Fiore di Broccoli plus two or three vegan options.

Having opened in November, word has steadily been spreading about The Master & Margherita’s tasty pizzas, with demand for takeaways heating up and loyal regulars returning to try all Janic’s creations. We suggest you do the same.

Opening hours:
Monday, Wednesday, Thursday & Sunday: 3pm — 9pm
Tuesday: Closed
Friday: 12pm — 10pm
Saturday: 3pm — 10pm

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop
Artworks by Natasha Wright

New York-based artist Natasha Wright is exhibiting her extraordinary paintings at Sanderson Contemporary

Natasha Wright has made a name for herself with work that critiques the representation of women via an exploration of the female form. Her pieces showcase a clear fascination with materials and texture, often brought to life via intriguing combinations and abstract shapes.

Over the course of her career (and creative development) Wright has developed an artistic language entirely of her own, with distinct, monochromatic lines that depict women in both grotesque and beautiful forms, having drawn inspiration from a range of sources including The Three Graces, ancient fertility goddesses, Matryoshka dolls and contemporary culture.

From left: The Three Graces, oil, black magnum and glass on canvas; Altarpiece, mica and acrylic on canvas 2020

Despite being based in the United States and working out of her studio in New York, Wright has created a series of works as part of a solo exhibition here, at Sanderson Contemporary (her first with the gallery). Comprising a number of expressive oil paintings and works on paper completed over New York’s quarantine period last year, the exhibition is aptly called A Place To Stand (perhaps a reflection of Wright’s search for stability at such an uncertain time) and features pieces that play with a palette of rich golds, grounded earthy tones and varying shades of black.

On at Sanderson Contemporary now until the 28th of February, Wright’s new works exemplify that one silver lining of a global pandemic is the rich variety of artistic responses that have emerged in the face of its turbulent circumstances. This exhibition is certainly one you do not want to miss.

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Soul Bar's frozen strawberry torte

Here’s everything you need to know about Auckland’s dining scene this February

Summer dining is one of the best parts of the warmer season. Judging by the variety of enticing dishes, exciting events and tempting offers from many of our favourite eateries, they aren’t willing to say goodbye to that holiday feeling just yet — and neither should we. Here are the gastronomic highlights to look out for in February.

Andiamo’s Locals Lunch

Lush lunch specials
Not that we needed another excuse to visit Andiamo, but the Jervois Road stalwart has re-launched its Locals Lunch. Featuring two delicious courses plus a glass of wine for the very reasonable price of $35, diners can expect the likes of arancini or bruschetta to start; followed by a choice of agnolotti, grilled market fish or a pork chop with nduja. Available Wednesday to Sunday from 12 – 4pm, this lush lunch offering is welcoming indeed.

Don’t sleep on this innovative Wyndham Street restaurant’s Trolley Derby lunch special. For $45, diners can expect a set menu starting with four tasty bites like First Light wagyu tataki and the popular Masa’s sweet corn toastie, followed by a main of John Dory, kimchi braised brisket or cornflake fried eggplant. Upgrades and sides are available, and we wouldn’t be able to resist a matcha soft serve to finish.

Crab Shack’s lunch specials

Crab Shack
Another lunch special that’s sure to sweeten the days of many-an inner city worker can be found harbourside at Crab Shack. Choose from seafood chowder, lettuce cup pork tacos or bang bang chicken salad for only $15, 12 – 3pm, Monday to Friday. 

A delightful dessert
Round off a meal at Soul in the most delicious way possible with the waterfront eatery’s new frozen strawberry torte. This delightfully rose-hued, multi-layered dessert celebrates the scrumptious summer strawberry in all its glory. Using Clevedon strawberries, unparalleled in their flavour and quality, the torte features a bottom layer of almond dacquoise (similar in texture to an almond macaron), followed by house-made strawberry ice cream, strawberry sorbet and finished with Italian meringue. Served in a generously-sized wedge, this is one sweet treat to fully indulge in.

Events to book
Le Longue Table du Chef
Can’t travel? No worries. Le Longue Table du Chef is returning to Auckland this February, promising to bring tastes of both France and Italy to our shores with multiple nights of al fresco dining. Held at Upper Vulcan Lane, diners can expect a French-inspired five course menu by the team at Le Chef bistro, and Aperol Spritzes to sip on — Italian aperitivo-style. Live music and DJs will keep the mood pumping, so get your crew together and make a balmy late summer’s evening of it.
Le Longue Table du Chef, Upper Vulcan Lane. $115 per person. 17th, 18th, 19th, 20th & 21st of February 2021, from 7.30pm Tickets available here.

Everybody Eats at Auckland Live Fringe Town
Social enterprise Everybody Eats is aiming to host its largest event yet with a dinner for 1,000 people at Auckland Town Hall on Sunday 21st February. Lauded chefs Tom Hishon and Michael Meredith will be in charge of the pay-as-you-can menu, with 60-minute timeslots available to book. Find more information and book here.

Azabu Mission Bay

Cocktails, Eats & Beats at Azabu Mission Bay
Keep the good times rollin’ with this summer series courtesy of Azabu Mission Bay, taking place every Saturday for the next six weeks. Presented by Roku Gin, the event series will provide revellers with great music courtesy of a roster of DJs, delicious food and moreish cocktails, all enjoyed in the eatery’s sundrenched courtyard.

Yotam Ottolenghi — Flavour of Life
Although it’s not until June, tickets are on sale now for Yotam Ottolenghi’s Flavour of Life tour at The Civic. The famed chef, restaurateur, author and TV personality will be sharing his beloved approach to food and cooking off the back of his popular new recipe book Ottolenghi Flavour, highlighting his innovative way with vegetables, sharing tips for great home cooking and expanding to leadership in hospitality. Find tickets here.

Pici’s cacio e pepe pasta

New openings to check out
Head to Britomart for a taste of Southern Spain courtesy of Alma, the highly-anticipated new restaurant from the team at Amano. If you’re craving fresh pasta, pocket-sized new K’ Road eatery Pici is churning out some of the best in town, while neighbourhood cutie Bar Martin is a great new watering hole for Mount Albert locals. A day of culture is sure to be rounded off nicely with a meal at Tuitui Museum Café & Bistro, Auckland War Memorial Museum’s brand new eatery. 

Stock up on natural wine at this new wine shop
Having originated in Wellington and built a loyal following, independent organic wine store Everyday Wine has finally opened an Auckland outpost at 442 Karangahape Road. Looking for a pet nat, an orange wine or a chilled red to take to your next dinner party, or to stock up the cellar? These guys will have all you could want and more. Find their website here.

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop

Mt Albert’s newest urban village is offering a peaceful lifestyle on the city fringe

Living in the city can feel like a balancing act. Often, we need to counteract the bustle of daily life with moments close to nature in order to recalibrate and recharge (or else run the risk of burnout). Luckily, a new development in the historic Auckland suburb of Mount Albert is recognising this and is applying it in practical ways.

The Alberton is Auckland’s newest urban village, offering 121 exclusive freehold strata title residences that sit at the intersection of city life, sustainability and the feel of a vibrant village. Behind the striking, architectural facades, each residence is warm, inviting and modern, with spacious private courtyards and verdant surrounds designed to bring residents closer to nature. It’s an idea that is one of The Alberton’s core tenants — that the contemporary urbanite is seeking a sustainable lifestyle, more connected to the natural environment and to the people around them.

From young professionals to those looking to downsize, The Alberton affords its residents’ an escape from the pace of the city, where they can feel as secluded in their own space as they can an integral part of a larger community. Those who call The Alberton home will not only have exclusive access to its communal gardens but will be able to make use of the village’s electric carsharing service. And for anyone with a four-legged friend, a designated dog washing station will be provided on-site, to ensure scruffy pooches don’t muddy up their owners’ pristine interiors.

Speaking of which, the developers at Conrad Properties and the architects at The Leuschke Group have ensured that The Alberton’s residences have been thoughtfully and purposefully appointed — designed to provide all the trappings of modern luxury without any unnecessary fuss or fanfare. Natural finishes meet neutral palettes in such a way that future residents will find it easy to make their own mark on their new homes, while clever indoor-outdoor spaces offer the openness that inner-city living often misses.

But while the Alberton will feel like a departure from the city, its location means that it will be only four minutes drive to the Southwestern motorway, 10 minutes drive to Auckland’s CBD, and a few minutes walk to St Luke’s shopping centre. The deft way in which this development feels simultaneously separate from and integrated into Auckland’s urban landscape contributes to the low-maintenance lifestyle it is set to offer — and is one of the reasons why The Alberton has already attracted early interest. Starting at $1,035,000, 23 of the residences have already presold with the rest expected to sell out by the end of February this year. (See here for more information.)

So if you are seeking a change of pace, without wanting to compromise on the kind of urban lifestyle to which you’ve become accustomed, The Alberton is a concept that embraces the best of both worlds and encourages an outlook on life that is grounded in nature, community and balance.

The Alberton’s onsite display suite is open daily from 11am until 2pm. For expressions of interest and more information, contact Alastair Brown on 021 333 290 or email him here.

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Spaghettini peperoncino
Pici's menu is designed to share
Cheesecake with EVOO and salt

Find seriously good pasta at Pici, the cosy spot proving popular on K’ Road

We’re of the opinion there are few things in life better than a simple yet exquisite plate of handmade pasta, and judging by the popularity of this recently-opened K’ Road pasta restaurant, we’re not alone. 

Named Pici, like the satisfyingly sturdy shape of fat spaghetti, this cosy St Kevins Arcade spot is the brainchild of a trio of New Zealanders who returned from overseas in early 2020 with a vision to jointly helm their own venture. Chef Jonny Thevenard, his partner Gemma Hareb and fellow chef Kaz Suzuki were living in London and travelled through Italy together where they fell in love with the beautiful simplicity of traditional Italian cuisine — in particular, pasta. 

The humble yet incredibly delicious meals that can be found at the most unassuming neighbourhood trattorias were central to Pici’s inspiration, explains Thevenard. The idea is to try and strip things back, rather than over-complicating things. “I’m not inspired by famous Italian chefs — more like the nonnas that are making this pasta and have done for so long.” 

Left: Spaghettini vongole. Right: Foccacia, bresola with thyme and horseradish, tomatoes with stracciatella and white balsamic

Thevenard and Suzuki’s culinary pedigree is sound, with both chefs having cooked under Ben Bayly at The Grove before individually moving overseas, while Hareb heads up the marketing and design side, each bringing their own skills to the operation.

As is the way of it these days, Pici’s menu is designed to share. A selection of antipasti kicks off the tasty offering, and everything is thoughtfully considered. Focaccia is the ideal companion to anything on the menu; we suggest using it to ferry into your mouth vibrant heirloom tomatoes paired with creamy stracciatella and lifted with white balsamic reduction, or the bresola with thyme and horseradish. 

Onto the all-important pasta: Pici’s current menu offers six varieties with tweaks dependent on season and supply. The namesake pici is a must for fans of cacio e pepe, while the spaghettini vongole is also popular; full of flavour yet light and fresh with juicy local clams, chilli and herbs. Fettuccine is currently available two ways — deep and umami with prawns and nduja, or summer-fied with zucchini, pomodoro bianco and pecorino. The spaghettini peperoncino, one of the simplest dishes with chilli, garlic, parsley and olive oil, doesn’t disappoint, and rigatoni with pork and fennel sausage ragu will satisfy any carnivore without being too heavy.

Right: Bresola with thyme and horseradish

A side order of the bitter leaves salad is never regretted, and it’d be rude to leave without rounding off with either one of the desserts — there’s a cheesecake and an almond, dark chocolate semifreddo. In our opinion, the cheesecake is one of the best we’ve tried, doused in grassy green extra virgin olive oil, lemon zest and a hearty pinch of sea salt. 

Pici’s restaurant manager and ‘wine guy’ James Pain has put together a succinct list that’s equally as considered as the food offering, with a focus on New Zealand and Italian wines and a preference for small producers, natural, low intervention techniques and organic fruit.

“They’re unique because of where they come from,” he says of some lesser-known Italian varietals they stock. “As a simple rule, when you eat food and drink wine from the same place, it’s a great way to make a match.” He also mentions they have an off-license, so if diners love a bottle at dinner, they can take one home with them.

Pici is the latest welcome addition to a dining area of Auckland that’s solidified its reputation for exceptional food in approachable settings, and with an offering this good, we’re already looking forward to our next visit.

Left from top: Pici cacio e pepe, Fettucine with prawns and nduja. Right: Pici’s window illustration by Carly Black

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Thursday 5:30pm — 11:00pm
Friday and Saturday: 5:30pm — 12:00am
Sunday 5:30pm — 10:00pm

Closed Monday
From early February, Pici will also be open for lunch service

Shop 22, St Kevin's Arcade,
183 Karangahape Road

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop
Bar Martin boasts a selection of both conventional and low-intervention wines
From left: Sardines with Kōpiko sourdough; Pork rillettes, meatballs and coppa stagionata with roast hazelnuts
Bar Martin's courtyard

Meet Bar Martin, Mt Albert’s charming neighbourhood bar that’s set to be a local favourite

“It’s been a long process to get here,” says Ruben Maurice, breathing a sigh of relief. The owner/operator of Mount Albert’s newest watering hole, Bar Martin, has had to weather a number of uncertainties thrown up by Covid and the Council at different times over the last year, just to get the front doors of his new establishment open. But it has finally happened, and thank God for that.

Bar Martin is the latest in what seems to be a trend towards neighbourhood spots that really emphasise and encourage community. A result, perhaps, of the way this pandemic has ushered in a new perspective around supporting local. The bar itself is intimate without feeling claustrophobic, its front window (through which the afternoon sun streams) offering an inviting tableau of small tables, set against a simple palette of dark timber, crisp white and tones of blue. The vibe is welcoming and inclusive, as ideal for friends catching up as it is for young families wanting a relaxed place to enjoy some food and a drink in the afternoon. (Maurice tells me that it is both “kid and dog friendly”).

From left: The interior features dark wood and crisp colour accents; The meatballs are not to be missed

Out the back, a courtyard with communal tables offers the perfect spot to make the most of long, summer evenings. “We are also opening a small shop in the bar soon where people can get takeaway beers and wines as well as re-fills from the bar’s taps,” says Maurice, explaining how he plans to make use of Bar Martin’s off-license.

On the menu, a number of simple, tasty bites, serve to perfectly complement Bar Martin’s interesting selection of wines (a mix of both conventional and low-intervention). The coppa stagionata (cured pork shoulder) with roast hazelnuts is a definite highlight, as is the sardines with Kōpiko sourdough, seaweed butter and lemon, and the meatballs are not to be passed up.

Above and beyond its food and wine offering and tastefully-appointed fit-out, Bar Martin really has captured the kind of charm you might expect from a beloved neighbourhood spot — one that has been there for years. As Maurice tells me, a focus has been placed on working with and supporting local producers and suppliers, stemming from a desire to support fellow owner/operators, and the whole vibe of the place is sure to draw in local punters who feel the same way.

Opening hours:
Tuesday to Thursday: 3pm — 10pm
Friday & Saturday: 3pm — 11pm
Sunday: 3pm — 9pm
Closed Mondays

Bar Martin
43 Martin Avenue,
Mount Albert

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop
Pot of mussels, ika mata, duck fat skins and snapper pâté
The newly-opened space features a long marble bar and a woven kete motif adorns the walls
Fish and chips with mushy peas, tartare and malt spray

Auckland Museum welcomes a brand new café, serving nostalgic Kiwi classics with a playful twist

Having spent a grand total of seven years revitalising its offering, Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum reopened late last year to reveal significant changes throughout its spaces. Included in the update is a new store and events space, a renovation of the south entrance, plus a brand new eatery named Tuitui Museum Bistro & Café. 

Featuring a menu of familiar classics done well, like fish and chips, mussels and roast lamb, Tuitui Museum Bistro & Café promises to provide a crowd-pleasing selection of bites and beverages for replenishing ones energy after soaking up some culture.

A selection of pizzas include the likes of smoked chicken, bacon, brie and cranberry

A ‘Kiwi High Tea’ includes a nostalgic, playful mix of morsels like snapper pâté and cheese rolls; lamingtons and lolly cake. The duck fat skins are sure to be a must-order, doused in truffle oil and shavings of parmesan with another classic served on the side — Kiwi onion dip. Native New Zealand ingredients are woven throughout the menu; think fried bread with watercress and goats cheese, and buttermilk chicken or buffalo cauliflower with karengo & piripiri. 

Little ones are well catered for with the dedicated children’s menu, and a selection of pizzas is sure to go down a treat with the whole family.

The drinks list features cocktails, wine and even an exclusive beer

Tuitui Museum Bistro and Café is fully licensed, with premiere independent craft brewery supplying the brews — they’ve even created an exclusive ‘Tuitui IPA’. New Zealand wines make up the majority of the wine list, with a range of cocktails also available. Keep an eye out for special events when the eatery will be open after hours, and next time you’re feeling peckish while enjoying the verdant surrounds of Auckland Domain, you know where to go.

Opening hours:
Monday to Sunday: 9am — 5pm
Also open until 8:30pm on Tuesdays for Twilight Tuesdays

Tuitui Museum Bistro & Café
Tāmaki Paenga Hira Auckland War Memorial Museum
Auckland Domain

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop

Azabu Mission Bay’s unmissable new Saturday series is serving up cocktails, eats and beats

Ensuring we don’t pull the curtain on summer too early (despite most of us being back at work), Azabu Mission Bay is keeping the good times rolling with its lively new series, Cocktails, Eats & Beats.

Set to start this Saturday and run from 3pm until 6pm every Saturday for the next six weeks, the series, presented by Roku Gin, will deliver seriously good music (thanks to DJs like Bobby Brazuka, Frank Booker, Manual Bundy, Hudge, Chip Matthews and more), refreshing drinks and tasty food. A potent combination, particularly when enjoyed in Azabu Mission Bay’s sprawling, sun-drenched courtyard.

Bobby Brazuka

So, make the most of the season by grabbing some friends and indulging in a cocktail or two to ease into the weekend. We’ll be there… will you?

Cocktails, Eats & Beats will take place from 3pm until 6pm every Saturday from the 23rd of January until the 27th of March.

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Andiamo’s new set menu is a delicious celebration of autumn
Taking over a coveted spot in Parnell, meet Rhu — the elevated new all-day eatery from an ex-Pasture chef
Raise a glass to rosé as Soul Bar & Bistro launches a month-long celebration of this delicious drop
Matt Benns in New York. Photo: Emma Anderson

Top hairstylist Matt Benns is back in town (and on the salon floor) for a limited time only

One of our top talents in the hair industry has been making significant waves overseas, and is now back on home turf (and, more importantly, in a local salon) for a limited time only. Matt Benns got his start as a trainee at renowned Auckland salon Stephen Marr in 2007, working his way up to Creative Director for the company by 2014 and moving to London in 2016, then New York in 2017. Having built a formidable portfolio of both in-salon and editorial work already in New Zealand, Benns’ roster of dream jobs, and dream clients, is now fit to burst. 

He’s a master O&M colour trainer based at the company’s New York headquarters, and has also been assisting top hairstylist Jawara Wauchope on editorial and commercial shoots since early last year. Through this, Benns has tended to the tresses of Beyoncé for British Vogue and several of the world’s biggest movie stars for Vanity Fair’s 2020 Hollywood issue — plus he was in charge of grooming for Anwar Hadid’s recent Numéro Magazine cover, and so much more.

We caught up with Benns to hear a bit about how he’s doing, and some of his key inspirations. Read the Q&A below — and, if you’d like to have the very same hands that have coloured Beyoncé’s hair colour yours, we suggest you contact Stephen Marr where he’s taking clients today, the 22nd and 26th of January.

Hi Matt! Welcome back to Aotearoa. How are you feeling upon your return?
Thank you, it’s honestly a crazy feeling. I’m feeling really blessed to be able to return.

What is one of the biggest things you’ve learned?
To be okay with not having long term plans. Before the pandemic, I was constantly thinking about what was next — I still do of course, but at a much healthier pace. The pandemic has changed the way we’re able to work especially in the beauty industry, our jobs require touch and human interaction so it has affected the pace that we can work. Also, the importance and value of community. We all have been through it, some more than others, and as New Yorkers we pulled through and supported each other in many ways. I felt very privileged to be a part of that.

Talk us through a typical day for you if you have a big shoot in the works. 
Depending on the shoot, the brief is emailed through a day before and we research, sourcing from historical moments, films, art, and books. We have a library of pre-researched works that we draw from that’s updated constantly. If needed, we pre-colour wigs, pre-style wigs and sometimes we travel too — all our kits need to be ready. Once on set, we unpack and begin working, however we usually have about 85 percent of work pre-done to make time on set as smooth as possible. This leaves room to make quick changes if something isn’t working. There are loads of things that are getting ready at this time, like set-build, styling, lights, photo, etc. so efficiency is crucial. 

Any strong hair trends emerging that you can pinpoint?
At this moment in time because of the pandemic and major shifts in beauty norms, there is nothing I can define as a trend. I really don’t think this type of forecast is overly relevant in beauty, which is actually really exciting. We’re expressing ourselves with more fluidity and confidence, looking internally and pulling from our own backgrounds. 

Could you share some key advice for taking care of your tresses in summer?
I think the biggest advice I could give anyone over summer is to avoid heat as much as possible, the less you work your hair the better. I do a lot of “fake haircuts” which is a very quick dusting of the ends.

Who or what inspires you?
People and books are heavy sources of inspiration. I’m lucky enough to be in New York where there are libraries of books I can access. I can spend hours in a bookstore or a library. 

And what else are you planning on getting up to while you’re here?
Spending as much time at the beach as possible, this trip was very last minute and unexpected — I’ve worked on a few shoots already while I’ve been back, hoping to collaborate with this new influx of talent we have here.

In recent times, what is the best…

Podcast you’ve listened to?
I listen to The New York Times The Daily ritually.

Book you’ve read?
Assata: An Autobiography 

Show you’ve watched?
I’ve started HBO’s Veneno and recently finished the Netflix Fran Lebowitz documentary by Martin Scorsese Pretend It’s a City — brilliant!

Meal you’ve eaten?
Brunch yesterday at Honey Bones, the Istanbul eggs.

Item you’ve purchased?
A USM Modular cabinet from my favourite NYC furniture store Lichen.

Social media account you follow?
@samyoukillis is my favourite.

Song you’ve heard?
‘Love Me Tonight’ by Fern Kinney (my summer jam).

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