Parisian Matt Gosset is no stranger to Auckland hospitality. In fact, he has spent the better part of two decades serving authentic French food to the most discerning diners. And his latest destination, Paname Social, feels like the culmination of his culinary journey thus far. Officially opening this week, the new inner-city bistro was imagined to replicate the European cafe culture Gosset was so fond of in his native Paris. Having now borne witness to it first-hand, we’d agree that it feels utterly European (and very chic).
Most recently, the team behind Paname Social were responsible for K’Road’s Atelier (and before that, Wynyard Quarter’s Wander and Point Chev’s Ambler), which is where the vision for this latest opening began. But Gosset’s history with Lorne Street dates back some 12 years earlier. He originally opened La Boulange, a four-square-metre operation where The Receptionist now lives. Back then, he explains that his landlord justified the high rent for a small floorplan on the basis that 17,000 people were walking past every single day. That was a massive part of the appeal that drew him back to the CBD too. “Half of Auckland doesn’t come [to the City], but half of Auckland is right here.”
Not that Auckland is poised to become the new Paris, but Gosset knows just how great a city can be when the culinary scene has a life of its own. He shares some of his fondest memories of getting a steak and a bottle of wine with friends at 4am, after a long shift on the floor himself, or even the simple habit of getting an afternoon coffee. “The City needs more,” he explains. “Where do you get a coffee after 3pm? Where do you get a glass of wine on a Monday?” He shares that his goal was to bring a tiny touch of European culture into our local dining scene.
And here, it is easy to see the inspiration. Paname Social’s front-of-house is run by fellow Parisian Matt Ferrgati, whom Gosset brought over from Atelier. (Only recently, the duo discovered their paths crossed as both worked at the same restaurant in Paris, nearby Champs-Élysées, at different times.) The team has also employed French culinary talents in both the kitchen and bar, the latter where possessing a discerning taste in wine is essential.
The menu came from the collective of experience (and the inimitable talents of Atelier’s Alexis Petit, who is lending a hand while Paname Social opens). Gosset tells me that the menu is French-inspired, with many dishes grounded in authentic recipes and ingredients sourced from local French suppliers. It ebbs and flows between day and night seamlessly, where breakfast dishes like the traditional Oeufs Cocotte (which Ferrgati explains is akin to a French shakshuka) meet the Millet Porridge — which draws on a North African influence commonly found in Parisian cuisine.
It is a bistro-style menu at night, where delicate market fish topped with clams and drowned in beurre blanc is served alongside Frenchiladas, a favourite of Gosset’s, that he describes as a French-Mexican hybrid of beef bourguignon, comté cheese, pea cream and blue corn tortillas. In these dishes alone, it is evident that ingenuity is an essential part of the excellence of the food here, and is just as important as its provenance, as well as the way in which cultural and culinary history are folded into every dish.
And at Paname (which is actually a fond local nickname for Paris reflecting the popularity of Panama hats in the early 1900s), hospitality extends beyond the food. The wine list here is impressive, with more than 40 varietals available by the glass hailing from both New Zealand and France, as well as Australia, Spain and Argentina. These are complemented by a curated champagne menu designed to be served alongside oysters from Te Matuku, Te Kouma and Bluff.
As far as the space itself is considered, the fit-out, designed by Gosset himself, responds to the building’s enduring history, both as a legacy hospitality destination and the century that predates it. Having recently undergone an extensive renovation led by Australian Architects Warren and Mahoney, the HB Building is home to a host of office spaces as well, whose staff add to the lively and busy nature of the expansive floorplan.
And so, Paname Social feels like the kind of destination where one could easily spend a whole day. It could be as simple as a coffee and croissant before going to a nearby office, or a bottle of wine with friends before heading to the theatre. And yet, for those seeking a long, languid lunch in an undeniably convenient location, this destination also answers that call. Ultimately, we see it quickly becoming one of those multi-faceted outposts that respond to our collective everchanging needs, the kind of restaurant that we won’t be able to get enough of.
Monday — Tuesday, 7am until 3pm
Wednesday — Friday, 7 am until 12 am
Saturday, 8 am until 12 am
Sunday, 8 am until 3 pm
3 Lorne Street,