Restaurateur Tony Astle reflects on 48 years of his beloved restaurant Antoine’s, the hospitality industry and what’s next for him

His eponymous Parnell restaurant, Antoine’s, shut its storied villa doors in December last year after 48 years of operation. One of the hospitality industry’s longest-standing and highly respected stalwarts, Tony Astle sits down with Sophie Gilmour for a lesson in career fulfilment.

I met Tony Astle for lunch at a Japanese restaurant in Parnell. I notice the moment I arrived that he looks well — perky, relaxed and sipping on a glass of rosé. I conclude subconsciously that it’s because he’s ‘out of the game’ now. Although it may be true that the hospitality game is wearing many a restaurateur (myself included) thin at the moment, this millennial was in for an unexpected lesson in “constant gratification”. A distinctly different kind to the instant version my generation has become addicted to.

I asked Tony to take me back to the origin story of Auckland’s beloved Antoine’s, the fine-dining French restaurant that he and his wife Beth owned and operated in Parnell for 48 years — until December 2020. I remember my parents taking my sister and I there for a special occasion as young girls, and that it felt like a visit to an ivory palace with silver service, waistcoats and liquorice ice cream. My sister cried when my father cracked her crème brulée before she had the chance. 

Tony tells me he worked at The Coachman in Wellington in 1968 before moving back to his hometown of Christchurch, where he bought a dairy. Beth, who was a hairdresser at the time, worked in the dairy at the weekends. Together they moved back to Wellington where Tony restarted at The Coachman. They fell in love and were inspired by Des and Lorraine Britten [The Coachman owners] to open their own restaurant together.

Tony had loved his chosen career since he was 15 years old and said he knew that his own restaurant had to be fine dining, silver service, and upmarket. He assures me that although his ideas all sounded “rather pretentious”, Beth was the calming and practical influence. Their initial plan was to operate for a five-year stint and then reassess whether to have a family or to travel the world. 

I love eating with food people, Tony orders a delicious lunch. Prawn custard and tempura vegetables with grilled eel. The conversation flowed. I’ve known Tony my whole life, but hardly seen him for 25 years. He owned a restaurant with my mother called Tatler in the early 90s in Galway Street in what is now Britomart.

I’m familiar with his reputation for being a straight-talking, politically controversial, sometimes hot-headed character and I’m always up for a bit of healthy debate. I’m also aware that he recently lost his beloved wife Beth to cancer — he’s been in my thoughts. We discussed the good times, the bad times, sickness and health — but on reflection, the most marked takeaway from our conversation was that Tony and Beth managed to be consistently fulfilled by their restaurant for all its 48 years.

To be honest, I’m shocked. I rolled up to lunch five minutes late straight from the shop floor at my beloved Fatima’s, feeling a little disenchanted with the operational burden of running a hospitality business in 2021; the relentless putting out of fires, the desperate struggle for staff in an uncertain market, the daily roster-shuffling to accommodate sickness in our 40-strong team. Tony doesn’t share this sentiment, and it served me a strong shot of perspective. We agree it won’t be like this forever. “There was no best year…. most years were great”, Tony tells me. Apart from 1989 – 1993 that is.

Tony said with effortless certainty that he always felt blessed to have found and continued “a career that was so enjoyable, a true pleasure to be involved in and to go to most days”. He speaks of the many incredible people he has met and served along the way.

This comes up several times. It strikes me what an enormous appreciation for his customers Tony has, as he takes time to tell me what good people many of them were. Many stood by him during the pandemic’s infancy last year and he feels grateful for that. It also struck me how hard he and Beth worked — six days per week, 6am to 2am, for 48 years! Tony would start later than Beth and she finished before him. Beth would start by cleaning the whole restaurant herself each day, Tony popped home for a nap mid-afternoon to prepare him for the late finish. What immense pride they had in their work, I think to myself. 

Tony fits the stereotype of an old-school chef in some ways. He has always been a fan of a late-night hoolie and he reminds me that some things don’t change. In other ways though, he is the exception to the rule. Tony and Beth managed to create an extraordinary life for themselves outside of the restaurant. They closed the restaurant for five weeks in the middle of each year and three weeks each Christmas. They prioritised annual international travel to experience the best restaurants and hotels in the world, clocking many people’s bucket lists, with trips on the Concorde, the Oriental Express and the QEII. Tony cooked on their travels as well, taking Antoine’s on one or two-week stints to the Hilton in Singapore or The Western in Japan or Thailand.

It’s gratifying hearing the rewards they reaped for all their hard work. They deserved it. In what I can only presume was a crude attempt to make myself feel better mid-pandemic, I ask Tony to take me back to the stock market crash, the only tricky era he has mentioned.

Tony tells me that “by 1990 everything had fallen over”. Although the stock market crash had been a couple of years earlier, it took until 1990 for the effects to hit the restaurant and 50 percent of Antoine’s’ turnover disappeared. The high flyers vanished and the cars outside Antoine’s went from very upmarket to a lot of “run-of-the-mill Toyota types”. The lunch trade, which had formerly been buzzing with advertising types and property developers, reduced to almost nil. Tony and Beth reduced their staff roll from ten to just four, including themselves. They requested and received a rent reduction and banked on their long term loyal customers to support them — and they did. I am reminded of my own relentless optimism, and I’m grateful for it at this moment.

Tony puts their survival of this period down in part to being owner-operators. It took he and Beth three years to revive the business, although lunches were never big again. He said it felt like starting over again, but this time reality had finally set in and they knew how to run the business. I learned this lesson the hard way too, as we sip our rosé and agree that there is nothing like being cash flow negative to school you on how to operate profitably. Tony and Beth never returned to ten staff, opting to run with five until last year. We discuss the challenges our industry is facing now — increasing compliance, the rising need for marketing spend, the chronic shortage of staff, the lack of resources to train them, the vanishing margins. I’m intrigued to hear what he thinks the solution is, the question on so many of our passionate comrades’ minds.

“It’s a cut-throat business… there are too many restaurants and not enough trained staff or in fact, not enough young ones wanting to work”. He has little patience for the young generation blaming low wages for not dedicating themselves to the hospitality industry. “Blame attitude”, he says… “if you are good, wages follow… walk before you run”. I’m currently refusing to participate in a price war as our industry competes for every fresh hire in Auckland, and in that moment I feel so seen. I sit with Tony’s initial comment for a moment and I wonder why we’re being fed the ‘everything now’ mandate, and whom it serves. The journey is what has given Tony the most satisfaction and fulfilment, not the destination.

I ask Tony if he knows what his next ‘destination’ is and he dismisses the notion of retirement wholeheartedly. Tony has been asked to participate in AUT’s culinary department and has an idea about producing exquisite ‘ready meals’. Demand for his tripe and oxtail and duck hasn’t waned since Antoine’s closed its doors and he has been cooking at home for catering orders he just can’t help but fulfil.

As we finish our second glass of rosé, I remember, regretfully, that I’m due back at work. I feel compelled to ask Tony’s advice for young and passionate restaurateurs today. “Own your own restaurant and work in it. You are the restaurant. Don’t think hospitality is a way to fame and fortune… work hard”.

I push back on this, on the basis that the stakes have never been higher owning your own restaurant in New Zealand. We discuss risk and reward in the context of multiplying construction costs, over saturation of restaurants and high rents, and Tony takes a financially conservative line. “Don’t over-capitalise. Be in control. Make sure you have done a business model. Know the tax laws. Be aware that health and safety and employment laws can be a nightmare. Due diligence is imperative. Remember that every staff member employed is money off the bottom line”. I am compelled to print these words on my consultancy’s homepage!

Does Tony have any regrets? “Not too many” he pauses… “I thought I’d have another 20 years with my wife after Antoine’s… but we had 53 years together. I feel lucky to have travelled to so many amazing places with her over our 48 years at Antoine’s. Beth would have liked one or two children, but it wasn’t to be”.

In their place, many of their wonderful staff became and remain their family. I’m wondering whether his penchant for French food extends to France when he says “Oh, I would have loved to go and live in the south-west of France about 15 years ago. Maybe that can still happen, but it won’t be the same without my long-term friend and partner”. I’m so moved by what’s still most important to him after all these years.

The final curtain on Antoine’s came on the 18th of December, 2020 and Tony described it as “the worst feeling ever”. I tell him I remember feeling physically sick the day we sold Bird On A Wire. Beth was ill and needed his full attention. She had given him 50 years of full support, and it was now Tony’s turn. He and his best friend Simon Woolley (Tony’s “saviour throughout this very difficult period”) decided together on the 14th of December to close the doors without any fanfare on the 18th. Tony describes a van arriving the next week and stripping 48 years of life away. Tony paused and then said, “I think I am still numb”.

Forty-eight years is an extraordinary tenure for an Auckland restaurant, one that Tony and Beth felt rightfully proud of. I feel connected to Tony’s bond with his restaurant, the rose-tinted lenses that carried him through the toughest times and how visceral the end of the era felt. I feel boosted and treated to the perspective of someone who has done the hard yards and I stand in admiration of the bond he and Beth shared whilst achieving all that they did.

Auckland misses Antoine’s, and its customers miss Beth. Tony’s work here is not done though, there is much to look forward to.

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


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

Embracing varied colour palettes and a moody character, this heritage home exudes a sumptuous romanticism

Tasked with bringing this majestic heritage house into the present day, the team at Alwill Interiors kept colour and mood at the forefront of their approach. Situated in Sydney’s Centennial Park, the home already contained exquisite turn of the century features which, having been lovingly restored, sing when paired with a Bauhaus-tinged modernity. 

Fortuny petite floor lamp by Pallucco from Studio Italia.

While natural light was not abundant throughout, Alwill Interiors worked with this inherent quality to create moody spaces that exude a sumptuous romanticism. The main living space is bestowed with impressively large-scaled proportions, and gently curved furniture works to create flow, comfort and softness in contrast to the traditional in-built features. Rounded sofas and chairs invite residents to recline on their organic, cloud-like cushions, while oval rugs, pebble-shaped coffee tables and arched mirrors all hone in on the effect. 

Varying shades of paint and wallpaper were utilised to create individual schemes for each room in the house, resulting in a home that offers shifting environments to reflect (and perhaps influence) the dispositions of those within it. In the study, hand-painted silk Wisteria De Gournay wallpaper adorns the walls with inky ambience, melding artful expression in a way that feels characteristically cohesive with the overall aesthetic. The living and dining areas lean into the heritage character with textural grey Porter’s Fresco paint, designed to replicate the plaster walls of ancient European buildings, while white walls and ceilings in both the hallway and the informal living room to the rear of the house assist in bouncing light around for a brighter, fresher effect. 


As well as delving deep into the impactful properties of colour, an understanding of scale and proportion was key to the success of this project. Soaring high ceilings and archways, an imposing fireplace and generous windows require furnishings and object d’art that can hold their own with the substantial quality of the aforementioned aspects. The Apparatus Cloud pendant mirrors the living room furniture’s curves without being too nebulous, its frosted glass orbs adding a contemporary centrepiece that is still in-keeping with the solidity of the home’s structure. Weighty coffee tables peppered throughout provide purposeful sturdiness, and generously-sized seating casts assured forms that avoid being too dinky. 


To introduce welcoming warmth into each space so as to remain comfortable for the young family who live here, plush rugs have been utilised with gratifying enthusiasm, each room’s iteration both complementing and offsetting the curation of furnishings. A long, sandy-hued rug stretches the full length of the entrance and hallway, and in the study an Italian Baxter rug, artisanally crafted from plant-based silk, adds beautiful texture underfoot.

Fundamentally, this home is a supreme showcase of what happens when the existing characteristics are comprehended so attentively, with comfortable and contemporary updates that still manage to celebrate its heritage rather than trying to impress upon it a detached aesthetic. 

Such cohesiveness ensures the house will stand the test of time, as it has done so far, with a singular confidence that is never out of style. 

Image credit: Prue Ruscoe
VCA Asset 3 Desktop


Pick up some late summer outdoor furniture deals in these epic designer sales
We take you inside Ponsonby’s exciting new architectural marvel — The Greenhouse
Don’t miss out on this discounted designer furniture pieces in ECC’s epic summer sale

Brent Sutcliffe tells us everything we need to know about bespoke jewellery

Designing breathtaking jewellery for over 30 years and with an eponymous brand that is one of the go-tos in Auckland for high-end finery, Brent Sutcliffe is an expert in the art of adornment. Often asked to create special, one-off pieces for his Sutcliffe Jewellery clients, here he tells us everything we need to know about the bespoke process (including some of the most extravagant custom pieces he’s ever created).

How many customers do you have who want bespoke pieces made? Customers wanting bespoke pieces would comprise about 70 percent of our overall client base.

What are the kinds of bespoke requests you get asked for the most? Are there any trends you’re noticing? Most of the bespoke requests we get are for rings — New Zealanders love rings. Probably more engagement rings than anything else. Large elaborate dress rings I think people prefer to see up close in real life rather than deciding to buy from a 2D design. Although there a few that do and are blown away by how much more beautiful the real thing is compared to the painting we do for them when we finalise the design. In terms of trends, we are seeing a lot of rose gold, platinum and engagement ring upgrades to include much larger diamonds.

What is the process of designing a custom piece? Is it better for clients to come with an idea of exactly what they want? Or is it easier when the starting point is more conceptual? If we are starting from scratch is always good for the client to know what they like…or don’t like. We need some kind of brief in order to make something the customer loves. But just a concept is fine and we will ask questions and have them try on what we carry in store to get a more specific idea of the direction.

How much creative input do you have in the process? We get as much information as possible from the clients and then we present some concept designs which get refined a number of times before the final options are presented. Sometimes a concept design is all it takes and sometimes we need to tweak the final design, it all comes down to the interpretation of the brief. In some instances, it takes a little bit more consultation, but it’s really important that we get it right so that the customer loves their final piece.

Have you ever had any bespoke requests that you’ve had to say no to? Only requests for certain things that will mean the ring will break or only last a year or two. I’ve spent 30 years making jewellery so I’ve seen what does and doesn’t work, and I don’t want to design or make something that I know will only lead to disappointment.

What is the most extravagant/spectacular/impressive custom piece you’ve ever made for a client? There have been a few that have been simply amazing to make, but the most recent was a bespoke Egg Pendant that had diamonds and black enamel on the outside and opened up to show a flower inside with an entremblent (moving or trembling) butterfly. It was one of the most difficult and time-consuming pieces I’ve ever had to make but the finished piece was… let’s just say I didn’t want to give it to the customer, I wanted to keep it!

What happens if the client receives their piece and doesn’t like it? Then we do what we have to, to put it right.

What kinds of pieces would you recommend going bespoke for? Anything can be bespoke, but the simpler pieces are easier for people to imagine finished. There has to be a certain amount of trust that we will deliver an amazing final piece.

What advice would you give people thinking of having a special piece made? If you’re thinking of getting a bespoke piece made, try to do as much homework as you can, and be clear about what you like. It means we can design a piece that’s perfectly suited to you and can refine the design a lot faster. And be brave!

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


An iconic brand for over 40 years, Pomellato should be in everyone’s jewellery collections — here, we talk to Sarah Hutchings of Orsini about why
Fresh off the runways of Milan Fashion Week — our favourite ready-to-wear looks from Fall 2024
Fresh from London Fashion Week — the best looks from the Fall 2024 runways so far

Andiamo’s at-home menu is the ultimate, indulgent Italian feast

Oh, to be tucked into one of Andiamo’s terracotta-toned booth seats and tucking into a free-range chicken parmigiana made with love and tomato fondue. While we can’t make ourselves comfortable at the convivial Herne Bay neighbourhood institution yet, we can let some of our worries slip away as we enjoy its melt-in-the-mouth Andiamo To Go menu from home.

The considered edit of its modern Italian-inspired menu has every course you need to delight and indulge. Start with a special gnocchi cacio e pepe and perfectly proportioned pizette, perhaps with pork and fennel sausage and chilli. Then, impress your bubble with the famed Andiamo favourites, including the pappardelle and the aforementioned parmigiana — with a roasted tomato caprese and caesar salad on the side. For the ultimate pick-me-up, finish with a classic tiramisu, made all the more memorable with amaretto crumb and valrhona cocoa.

Making gourmet takeaways all the more enjoyable, Andiamo To Go is available via phone order from 4 to 8pm, with contactless pick up from 5pm. (Contactless delivery is also available for its surrounding Auckland suburbs for a small fee.)

To celebrate this fine offering from Andiamo, Denizen has a $250 restaurant voucher to award one fortuitous foodie.

To enter this delectable giveaway, click here.

This competition is now closed.

Entries must be received no later than 5pm on Friday the 1st of October. Winner will be notified by email.

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


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
Emma Lewisham. Photographed by Holly Burgess.

Emma Lewisham is the world’s first carbon positive beauty brand, with a glowing endorsement from Dr Jane Goodall

In the fresh-faced news of the day, Emma Lewisham has announced it is officially the world’s first carbon positive beauty brand, and has the world’s first 100 percent circular-designed product range. To commemorate the occasion, Emma Lewisham received a written endorsement from the iconic environmentalist and United Nations Messenger of Peace, Dr Jane Goodall.

“Emma Lewisham is demonstrating what it means to be a truly sustainable business,” Dr Goodall wrote. “Through their carbon positive and circular business model, Emma Lewisham is creating environmental prosperity and showing their peers that this business model is not just possible but paramount if we are to make a meaningful difference.”

One to take matters into her own hands, the brand’s eponymous co-founder Emma Lewisham had written to Dr Goodall about her work, and was overwhelmed with this response from her personal hero. “It’s just a dream come true. I’ve looked up to her since I was a teenager and she’s always been someone I’ve been in awe of and fascinated by,” says Lewisham. “I think what it means for the brand is that we’re going to accelerate change in the beauty industry and bring about systemic change.”

Dr. Jane Goodall. Photo by Michael Collopy.

Being carbon positive means Emma Lewisham is taking more carbon emissions out of the atmosphere than it puts in, which creates a positive environmental impact. While many international brands match their emissions to be carbon neutral, Emma Lewisham is going above and beyond by offsetting an additional 25 percent. The carbon offset credits will go towards regenerating New Zealand’s Puhoi Forest Reserves, supporting Gyapa’s Cook Stoves technology in Ghana and supporting Malya’s Wind Power Project in India.

To be in a position to offset positively, Emma Lewisham needed to work out what exactly its carbon emissions were for each product. A pottle of potent skincare may be small but its impact on the environment begins to stack up beyond the shelf, from transportation needs to end-of-life solutions. The brand worked with another Auckland-based and world-leading company, the independent environmental certification agency Toitū Envirocare, to quantify its carbon numbers before reducing them. “You have to be really committed to the challenge,” says Lewisham.

Achieving carbon positivity at the in-depth product level, as opposed to a general corporate level, meant tracing 150 complex ingredient sources — including a secluded edelweiss plant grown in a Swiss town, known to strengthen the skin’s natural barrier and restore the appearance of youthfully firm skin in Emma Lewisham’s Supernatural Crème. Traditionally, the beauty industry has operated under secrecy for such special ingredients, but transparency is needed to ensure ethical production. “And so it was convincing them to see that we want this information because we wanted to be empowered and be able to make good choices,” says Lewisham.

Emma Lewisham has always been a problem-solver. The brand’s entire range is both scientifically validated and 100% natural. From its Supernatural Vitamin A Face Oil that nourishes the skin while protecting it against environmental aggressors, to its Skin Reset Serum that evens skin tone while restoring radiance, each product meets a need that was not yet smoothed over successfully by the industry. But the biggest problem was on a much larger scale — the 120 billion units of beauty packaging sent to landfills each year.

It’s a dirty secret that although many beauty products are labelled as recyclable, in reality, curbside recycling is not up to the task and it’s often added to general rubbish. “Recyclability for us is defined not by the potential, but by what actually happens in practice,” says Lewisham. “Brands have to take ownership for it. That’s why we have our Emma Lewisham Beauty Circle — we take material back with the aim of always being able to first and foremost reuse it. And if we can’t, then we pay for it to be recycled through Terra cycle.”

After significant business investments, all of Emma Lewisham’s products are 100 percent designed to fit within a circular system, as well as made with 100 percent renewable energy. Designed to out-smart waste from the outset, Emma Lewisham products now use refill pods, so the outside packaging can be kept and reused by the customer. And the empty refill pods can be sterilised and refilled when sent back to base.

“Circularity is how we can reduce carbon emissions more than anything in the beauty industry,” says Lewisham. In fact, Emma Lewisham’s refillable product vessels have up to a 74% smaller carbon footprint than its original packaging. 

Seeing the importance of collaboration over competition, Emma Lewisham is sharing its carbon positive and circular packaging intellectual property with the wider industry this week, as it announces a new stockist in Net-a-Porter. “We feel by helping others it will only in turn help us achieve what we’re trying to do, bringing about change in the industry,” says Lewisham.

Of course, the work is ongoing. Emma Lewisham’s goal over the next two years is to reduce the carbon number of each product by a further 50 percent, while continuing to be a voice for change in the industry as its influence grows.

As in the pertinent words of Dr Goodall’s recommendation letter: “The greatest danger to our future is apathy. I sincerely hope that the beauty industry can follow Emma Lewisham’s lead. I believe they are paving the way for the future.”

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


Auckland’s newest reformer studio offers group classes, private sessions, and the perfect place to practice
Embrace the sleek sophistication of Photo Finish Hair — the tress trend of the moment
Three simple ways to achieve a sharp jawline and a snatched profile

Yu Mei founder Jessie Wong on uniform dressing, Nutella crumpets and her inspiring ancestors

Fresh from university, Jessie Wong launched her leather goods label Yu Mei in 2015 with just six styles. Now with 36 stockists around the world, flagship stores in Wellington, Newmarket and at Commercial Bay, the understated luxury brand can be found in the hands of stylish women everywhere. Wong’s excellent and refined taste goes far beyond her stylish accessories, and we asked this driven fashion entrepreneur to share her mental mood board.

My personal style can be defined by: Steadfast favourites, unfussy and utilitarian. I live in trousers and a blazer or trench, usually with some combination of a classic t-shirt in summer, or a cashmere sweater or vest outside of summer. I believe so strongly in this uniform-like approach to dressing, that my quest to curate the perfect capsule wardrobe led to us collaborating with local sustainable knitwear experts, Standard Issue, on a range of luxurious cashmere styles, which I live in and predict will continue to, for eternity.

The last thing I bought and loved was: My partner, Jack, and I are currently mid-overhaul of the landscaping on our property, so my shopper’s mind is consumed by outdoor furniture and various stone/concrete/material finishes.

An unforgettable place I visited was: Despite being lucky enough that my work has taken me all over the world, I’ll forever cherish memories from our trips to visit the farms and tannery right here in New Zealand. Waking up before dawn in the frigid cold to track a pod of deer across multiple council lines in Timaru and Lake Hawea was nothing short of breathtaking and gave me such an appreciation of the regenerative agriculture and climate-conscious farming innovations taking place in our very own backyard. I’m so proud to be part of this supply chain in some small way — the leather we use is a byproduct of the venison industry so we’re diverting it from the waste cycle and creating buttery soft, luxurious handbags in the process.

The next place I’d like to go to: Back to China and Europe to rediscover my family history — my brother recently mapped out our family history and we’re so excited to retrace the routes our ancestors traversed, when we can travel internationally once again.

From left to right: Gypset Earrings by Jessica McCormack, available from Simon James; Whetū brooch by Matthew McIntyre-Wilson (Taranaki, Nga Mahanga and Titahi).

An object I would never part with is: A woven whetū brooch by artist Matthew McIntyre-Wilson (Taranaki, Nga Mahanga and Titahi). It was gifted to me by Jack and while I don’t often wear it, it is an incredibly special piece and I feel so honoured to own it.

On my wish list is: A pair of Gypset earrings by Jessica McCormack. Make that anything Jessica McCormack — her pieces are so beautifully unique and have a perfectly balanced nonchalance to them.

When I was younger, I wanted to be: A Magazine Editor, Fashion Designer or a Lawyer.

I am inspired by: The fearless females that came before me, who weren’t afraid to challenge the status quo, get on with the job and occupy space. My great-grandmother Vi who wore trousers in the 1920s; my grandmother who drove trucks and believed in her ability to do any job as well as anyone else; my grandparents on my dad’s side who came to New Zealand from China, making huge sacrifices to give future generations a better life.

My favourite app is: Asana — this speaks to the goal-setting listmaker in me.

My guilty pleasure is: Nutella on crumpets. Can’t beat a childhood favourite.

My secret talent is: Making salad dressings. It sounds simple but the transformative power of a good dressing cannot be overstated in my books.

My favourite cultural/style icon is: Penny Martin, editor of The Gentlewoman, aka my favourite magazine to ever exist.

Yu Mei Spring Summer 21/22.

My top Yu Mei picks for the season ahead are:
1. Our new Suki Multi Strap Bag in Matisse Blue, the best colour and a perfectly minimal form.
2. The Scrunchie Vi Bag in Sunshine, to dance along to Solar Power.
3. The ever-faithful Braidy Bag in Cocoa, because you can’t beat a classic.

The best book I’ve read in the last year is: Imagining Decolonisation — it has changed and challenged how I view the world as a citizen of Aotearoa and what it means to be living on these lands.

I can’t miss an episode of: The podcast How I Built This with Guy Raz.

In my fridge you’ll always find: Elysian marinated olives. Black Estate Chardonnay and assorted ingredients for the aforementioned salad dressing obsession.

I recently discovered: Commonsense organic veggie box delivery. They also do milk in glass 1L containers that they pick up the following week.

My favourite website is:

The new Yu Mei piece I’m currently most inspired by is: Our re-release of the new, refined Georgie Bag. It’s the ideal size and profile for a summer of festivals, hikes, beach wanders and everything in between.

Ayesha Green’s Elizabeth the First exhibition.

If price were not an issue, the one artist whose work I would collect is: Ayesha Green from Jhana Millers Gallery.

The podcasts I listen to are: How to Fail by Elizabeth Day, the BoF Podcast by Business of Fashion.

The best gift I ever received was: My education.

The latest music I’m loving is: Lorde’s Solar Power album, Harper Finn’s cover of Maybe Tomorrow and a recently-rediscovered Spotify inclusion of Now that’s What I Call Music 1-50

Left to right: Rita, Wellington; Yeli Coat by The Row.

The last meal out I had that truly impressed me was: Rita in Wellington is always a treat — such care and intention in every element.

A classic piece I never tire of is: A lightweight beige trench by The Row with black leather accents. Great to throw over everything, travels well, and I know will be a wardrobe staple for years to come.

This spring/summer, I predict that everyone is going to be wearing: Button-down shirts. You heard it here first.

One of the best pieces of advice I’ve ever received is: No one knows what they’re doing until they’re doing it.

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


An iconic brand for over 40 years, Pomellato should be in everyone’s jewellery collections — here, we talk to Sarah Hutchings of Orsini about why
Fresh off the runways of Milan Fashion Week — our favourite ready-to-wear looks from Fall 2024
Fresh from London Fashion Week — the best looks from the Fall 2024 runways so far

Not all face masks are created equal — here’s what you need to know to stay safe

David Robb was living in Hong Kong at the beginning of 2020 when Covid-19 came along and changed the way we all live, and subsequently, breathe. As the government mandated the full-time use of face masks outside of the home, including at places of work, Robb saw how the metropolitan area took the challenge in their stride. “Being immersed in this culture, I really got to witness how effective ‘proper’ face mask-wearing strategies work at containing the spread of the virus,” he says. “Not only was it mandatory to wear a face mask, but your face mask had to be one that was genuinely protective. No homemade (nor designer) cloth reusable masks were permitted if they did not have a certified protective rating.”

On returning to his home country, Robb launched Respiratory Protective Masks New Zealand, to help our team of five million come accustomed to mask-wearing. “I want to help everyone understand that while a face mask without a protective rating certification may make you (and some others who are unaware of the failings) feel good while you’re wearing it, as per all studies, the masks that have a medical/surgical rating outperform all others. And mostly, the results are substantial.”

Robb notes that early recommendations around wearing non-surgical face masks from the World Health Organisation (WHO) and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were based on saving supply of the surgical face masks for the front line staff, but with Respiratory Protective Masks New Zealand’s surgical face masks having greater than 99 percent BFE (Bacterial Filtration Efficiency) and PFE (Particulate Filtration Efficiency), an insufficient stock of high-grade masks is no longer an issue.

In particular, the Korean Style face masks provided by Respiratory Protective Masks New Zealand have a comfort, fit and filter that “is able to perform equal to an N95 medical mask while providing more than 99 percent protection”.  And, they have an added bonus for those who wear lipstick as it doesn’t get smudged off. 

“For Hong Kong and some other Asian countries, this strategy of face mask-wearing is well-rehearsed and falls into place easily,” says Robb. “For us in New Zealand, long term face mask-wearing is one we are certainly not familiar. It is understandable then that here in New Zealand, people are ill-informed and unaware of the what/how/why of face mask-wearing.”

It is worth noting that the WHO recommends reusable cloth masks should be washed in at least 60°C in the washing machine to be safe to be re-used. If that is not possible, then they should be washed in soapy water and then boiled for at least one minute. — Two options even the most well-meaning of mask wearers may not be able to do on a daily basis. 

Of course, we’d like the face masks we don to re-enter the world to be a little more chic than a surgical style face mask. Respiratory Protective Masks New Zealand come in a range of colours and patterns, which are all part of encouraging us to look after one another. Its specifically designed junior and child sized masks help us protect our families as well.

“Ultimately, wearing face masks protects both ourselves and the people around us,” says Robb, reiterating the New Zealand government’s advice. “Whenever Covid-19 rears its ugly head, we can drastically contain the spread through wearing highly protective face masks.”

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


This beer-battered eggplant bao recipe is guaranteed to impress any dinner guest
Recipe: Kick start your weekend with Ottolenghi’s sweet potato shakshuka
Try perfecting this orecchiette recipe from the pasta masters at Pici
Photo: Jeremy Hooper

Karen Walker Creative Director Mikhail Gherman on the punk movement and his love of re-inventing the uncool

Emigrating to New Zealand from what was Soviet Ukraine at the age of 12, Mikhail Gherman first found his creative feet in art school, before becoming a widely-respected Creative Director in advertising. Now, he is most known for his current tenure as the other half of Karen Walker (the designer’s husband and the brand’s Creative Director).

He is a man with an unconventional story and a uniquely creative mind. His thoughtful outlook, inquisitive approach and ability to think outside the box have seen him achieve renown in a number of fields, but for the last 30 years it has been focused on developing and executing the visual language of one of New Zealand’s most lauded fashion brands.

Creating quirky, attention-grabbing campaigns that have seen Karen Walker reach unprecedented, international heights, Gherman himself might be a quieter figure in the wider landscape of fashion, but his work speaks for itself.

Here he gives insight into his thinking and tells us why old sea captains are his current source of inspiration.

I’ve always been drawn to subversive-ness and outsiders. My formative years were the second half of the ‘70s and punk held for me a perfect combination of style, humour and “fuck you”. It was a glorious moment of music, fashion and politics coming together in a way that anyone could be part of if they had the right energy. It was especially perfect for those who felt like they didn’t belong in the system — it was kind of a revenge of the outsiders, and I related. 

Karen Walker eyewear campaign with Toast

I’m inspired by things that are bland or quotidian or super uncool — I reinvent or elevate them. Dogs wearing glasses, for example, was an existing, slightly cheesy, genre that we elevated and made into a luxurious, tongue-in-cheek, blockbuster moment when we did our campaign with Toast. When we worked with Advanced Style for an eyewear campaign, and later a jewellery campaign, we loved that Ari Seth Cohen’s central idea for Advanced Style was to take an entire group of people, those over 65, who had been, on the whole, swept aside and treated as bland or invisible, and allow them to take the stage and really play with fashion and being in the spotlight. Now the media is full of images of glorious, silver-haired people with over-the-top jewellery but when we did the projects with Ari it was unheard of and eyewear campaigns were, 99 times out of 100, shot on dewy-skinned girls at the beach. 

Everything about Rome makes me nostalgic. I lived there for two years in my early teens and my feelings for it are palpable. The colour of the stone, the sound of the scooters, the skyline, the light, the stone pines. Also, when I recently picked up my paint brushes again the smell of linseed oil made me very nostalgic for art school.

The urge to create is something I have no choice about, despite being naturally lazy. I have to be creating and making. It’s innate in me. It’s what gets me out of bed. 

My formative years were in the 70s, and that suited me just fine. I hated everything about them until I heard Sex Pistols’ Never Mind The Bollocks and then I was hooked on the energy of raw talent pushing against everything and breaking it all down.

I learned resilience from my dad, his own could have filled a book. Surviving the Holocaust, four years in the Soviet Army, 40+ years in the Soviet Union and the uncountable trials and tribulations of a refugee’s life are just the beginning. My wife is the other person I look up to, for her ability to create order out of chaos — the perfect counterbalance to my natural tendency towards creating chaos out of order. 

I would love to collaborate with Grayson Perry — a contemporary British artist known for the subversive way he chronicles contemporary life. He takes the conventional and turns it on its head. And his work is beautiful.

I’ve been learning to paint again. Over lockdown last year a friend asked me to participate in an exhibition (really just an excuse for a party) of works by art school alumni friends of hers. The brief to respond to was The Male Gaze. The concept for my 35 oil paintings was Men In Isolation. They were all painted on Beehive matchboxes. There were several reasons for choosing matchboxes for my canvas: they speak to the intensity of manhood when reduced down to its essence; they speak to the fragility/danger/fleeting nature of manhood; they look like Instagram images; I knew Karen would freak out if my painting studio was bigger than an A0 piece of kraft paper; and, I’m lazy and they don’t take much time to paint. My favourite story within the works were my 15 sea captains. I love sea captain paintings because it’s a cheesy genre, an oeuvre reserved for small-town junk-shops — I thought it deserved a reinvention. Also, they all look kind of like me: hirsute, weather-worn, grey and with a Breton shirt (my summer uniform). The only difference is I don’t smoke a pipe and all my captains do. 

I’m most proud of my 30+ year marriage and my daughter’s critical mind because both of these things are rare.

Untitled (Gril with The Cat), 2016 by Aleksandra Waliszewska

Everyone should be looking at the work of painter Aleksandra Waliszewska. She has a 21st Century, Breugel-esque, post-apocalyptic vision of the world. 

I’m actually at my best in changing times. I embrace the discomfort that they bring. When there are massive changes and everyone goes back to zero I’m at my most energised. It must be my survival instincts kicking in and taking me back to my childhood when I had to adapt, embrace and affect huge changes after leaving my hometown at age 12 (Odessa, in what was then the Soviet Ukraine) and living the refugee’s life through my early teens. 

I’m quite happy at home right now but I would like to visit my brother in L.A. at some point.

I’m often reminded of a piece of advice I was given a long time ago, and always come back to: surround yourself with people who get it. 

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


An iconic brand for over 40 years, Pomellato should be in everyone’s jewellery collections — here, we talk to Sarah Hutchings of Orsini about why
Fresh off the runways of Milan Fashion Week — our favourite ready-to-wear looks from Fall 2024
Fresh from London Fashion Week — the best looks from the Fall 2024 runways so far

Learn the story behind one of the world’s most recognisable sofas: Mario Bellini’s Camaleonda

Even if you don’t know its name or origin story, you’ll surely recognise the Camaleonda sofa. Originally designed in 1970 by Mario Bellini for B&B Italia, this distinctive and innovative piece of furniture is one of the most sought-after interior additions by anyone with a nous for statement-making design. It was introduced to the international market with a bang in 1972, after appearing in that year’s landmark exhibition at New York’s Museum of Modern Art: “Italy: The New Domestic Landscape”. Other equally-as-Instagrammed pieces from that very same exhibition include the undulating Ultrafragola Mirror by Ettore Sottsass, also designed in 1970.

Bulbous yet inviting, unique yet versatile, Camaleonda was one of the first modular sofas to go mainstream, preceding what would come to be a widely-adopted design choice. It is endlessly customisable, transforming at the whim of the user from a linear form that might sweep along a wall, to a group of pillowy seats crowded around a table; an angled daybed to a series of separate lounging chairs.

“Of all the objects I have designed, Camaleonda is perhaps the best in terms of its sense of freedom. There are [an] infinite number of possible configurations,” said Bellini.

While Camaleonda was only originally in production until 1979 (no doubt contributing to its sought-after rarity), Bellini and B&B Italia worked together to re-issue the exact same design in 2020, updated with more sustainable materials and available locally from Matisse.

Both the seventies design and today’s version comprise rounded modules of fabric-covered polyurethane, cleverly connected to one another with a simple system of carabiners, rings and cables to be unhooked and recombined at will. Today’s system contains either recycled or recyclable materials that can also be easily separated once the seating reaches the end of its life — from recycled PET to stainless steel, brass and solid beechwood. The outer fabrications can be customised to suit whatever interior they are to be situated in, from rich jewel-toned velvet to earthy leather and neutral tones too.

Right: Archive imagery of the original design.

Bellini came up with the name Camaleonda as an amalgamation of two words that aptly describe both the shape and function of the sofa. The first comes from the Italian word “camaleonte”, which means “chameleon” (an animal able to adapt to the environment around it), and the second is “onda”, meaning “wave”.

Still designing at age 85, Mario Bellini’s legacy is one of exceptional and renowned pieces that have changed the way we view our living spaces. Camaleonda embodies this perfectly, and its dynamic yet anchoring sensibility is sure to be sought after, still, for years to come.

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


Pick up some late summer outdoor furniture deals in these epic designer sales
We take you inside Ponsonby’s exciting new architectural marvel — The Greenhouse
Don’t miss out on this discounted designer furniture pieces in ECC’s epic summer sale
Hello Beasty's karaage chicken

Craving fried chicken? Bring it to your bubble with the tastiest takeaway fried chicken dishes in town

Now that takeaways are back on the menu at level 3, no doubt many of us are able to enjoy some of our more indulgent cravings that were a little further out of reach in level 4. Case in point — fried chicken. While it’s certainly possible to make delicious fried chicken at home (this excellent Azabu recipe is a perfect example), why not let someone else take care of the cooking, supporting some local eateries at the same time? To save you from having to hunt around, here are the tastiest fried chicken dishes on offer to indulge in at home, from wings to Korean fried chicken and more. Each venue offers different takeaway or delivery options, make sure you check on their website or social media.

From left to right: Ockhee; Lowbrow.

Karaage chicken with Beasty Japanese barbecue sauce from Hello Beasty
Now available as an add-on dish to their delicious meal kits this week, Hello Beasty’s Karaage chicken is irresistibly crunchy on the outside and juicy on the inside, served with the eatery’s signature Beasty Japanese barbecue sauce, a sprinkling of fresh parmesan and with a side of lemon.

Dak gang jeong fried chicken from Ockhee
Yeah, we’ve had a hankering for KFC — Korean fried chicken, that is. Packing a gochujang-spiked punch of flavour, Ockhee’s Korean fried chicken is addictively sticky and just as delicious eaten at home as it is when its Ponsonby Road restaurant is open for dining in. Spice fans will love the spicy soy and sesame glazed chicken; trust us, it brings the heat.

Organic wings from Lowbrow
Anyone who’s tried Lowbrow’s fried chicken selection knows it’s legendary. While we’re the first to say the chicken sando is a thing of beauty, Lowbrow’s wings are what we order when we want to go straight to the source. Made with Bostocks organic, free range chicken, you can choose your own spice level and that ranch dipping sauce? Chef’s kiss.

Left to right: Azabu; Gochu.

Karaage chicken from Azabu
No order from Azabu is complete without a side (or a main, no judgement here) of its famous chicken karaage. The eternally popular Japanese snack is deliciously realised here, with pickled daikon, crispy oregano and aji amarillo mayo, and is available for pick-up from both Azabu’s Ponsonby and Mission Bay restaurants.

Jason’s fried chicken from Gochu
During level 3, Commerical Bay Korean favourite Gochu has only two dishes on offer within its Gochu At Home selection, because it knows they’re that good. The first is its signature milk buns and the second is Jason’s Fried Chicken. Crunchy, sweet, spicy and juicy, it’s some of the best Korean fried chicken in town.

Left to right: The Lodge Bar & Dining; Beau.

Spicy fried chicken sando with fries from The Lodge Bar & Dining
As part of its ‘dine out’ offering, you can order an excellent fried chicken sandwich from The Lodge Bar & Dining. Brined and spiced fried chicken is joined by cheddar cheese and bread and butter pickles, sandwiched in a brioche bun and served with fries. Divine.

Fried chicken burger from Beau
Three Lamps wine bar Beau doesn’t just have a great selection of the good grape juice on offer; its fried chicken burger and signature fried chicken bites are must orders (especially with a side of mac ‘n’ cheese and fries).

From left to right: Wise Boys; Orphans Kitchen.

Spicy buffalo chick burger from Wise Boys
We may have also mentioned Wise Boys’ ‘Spicy Buffalo Chick’ in our recent burger round-up, but we had to include it here as it’s just that good, and all without an actual chicken in sight. Original recipe vegan ‘chicken’ is drizzled in a spicy buffalo sauce, served up with a tangy slaw, jalapeños, pickles and house-made vegan ranch dressing. Yeehaw.

Organic fried chicken from Orphans Kitchen
Serving daily from its Ponsonby Road-facing window during level 3, Orphans Kitchen’s organic fried chicken is quintessentially moreish. Served with pickles, ranch dressing and lime, pull up to order on the spot for contactless pick-up or call 09 378 7979.

VCA Asset 3 Desktop


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