“I’ve lived here my whole life,” Fran Mazza tells me, as we’re standing outside Queenies‘ distinctive ivy-covered facade in Freeman’s Bay. “I love this community, and I love having a place that the neighbourhood can come to that’s relaxed and welcoming,” she continues, “I’ve already met so many new people over the last few months, it’s been such a good spot.”
Anyone who has ever indulged in Auckland’s sprawling hospitality scene will be familiar with the work of Mazza and her husband Aaron Carson, who were responsible for establishing places like Sugar at Chelsea Bay, Rude Boy Deli, Winona Forever, FANG, Just Like Martha and so many more. Over the years, they built a stellar reputation for offering bold, seasonal flavours, unique dishes and food that looked utterly beautiful. Now, having sold their previous locations (and after taking a short break from hospitality), the duo is breathing new life into what is widely considered a Freemans Bay institution, Queenies — now called Queenies Caffé and Vino.
From its verdant exterior to its sun-soaked tables to its intimate vibe, Queenies is about as charming a neighbourhood spot as you could imagine, and what Mazza and Carson have done since taking over has only made it better. Along with trimming the ivy and giving the interior a timely refresh (where crisp white walls meet small Italian-style wooden tables and beautiful Italian stone tiling), the duo has reimagined the daytime menu and (most significantly) introduced an evening service, at which time the bustling cafe-style space of the day transforms into an elegant wine bar and becomes the perfect spot to park up for an after-work wine or a post-dinner drink and dessert.
Here, Mazza was inspired by her own Italian upbringing to give Queenies Caffé and Vino a trattoria-style twist, creating the kind of sophisticated but subdued European wine bar that Freemans Bay had been sorely missing. On the considered but concise menu, the duo’s creative culinary genius shines through, where fresh takes on staple dishes meet wholly original flavours that have been perfectly layered on every plate. Importantly, everything is done with a focus on seasonality and utilising fresh, locally-sourced ingredients, which means that (thanks to ever-changing menus) no two visits here will feel quite the same.
Highlights on the daytime menu include a succulent, fennel-infused pork belly with greens and perfectly-cooked potatoes; or for those with a sweet tooth, the Italian crêpes, which are served with a veritable menagerie of toppings, including mascarpone, bourbon-and-vanilla-poached pear, blueberry, lemon and organic maple. While in the evening, dishes like a beetroot salad with buffalo curd and golden, red and pickled beets, topped with bush honey, brown butter and hazelnut dukkah, and a ‘fig five-ways’ dish where fresh and dehydrated figs sit on a bed of creamy stracciatella drizzled with housemade fig oil and aged fig balsamic, take centre stage. At night, the idea is yummy bites to enjoy alongside a glass of delicious Italian or New Zealand wine, or even just a coffee and a dessert (if you feel like truly embracing Queenies’ new European vibe).
Having officially opened the doors back in February, Mazza and Carson have spent the last few months honing their concept and getting to know their clientele. Ultimately, they have capitalised on Queenies’ inherent charm to transform it into a bona fide hidden gem in the heart of one of Auckland’s most sought-after, city-fringe suburbs. And in our opinion, it couldn’t be in better hands.
Monday — closed
Tuesday — 8am until 4pm
Wednesday to Saturday — 8am until 10pm
Sunday — 8am until 4pm