Stark's Cafe and Bar

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8 reviews
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The Civic,
Corner Queen Street and Wellesley Streets,
Auckland Central

(09) 377 0277

The ViewAuckland Review

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Review byBrett Atkinson15/05/2007

4 out of 5

Saturday night in Queen St, and the usual team is out to play. Outside Borders, the young guy that plays the piano to send his ballet-dancing sister overseas is now involved in an ongoing dispute with the council and the cops. A few boy racers are trying to get out of first gear, but are stymied by the overload of inner-city roadworks, and Kebabs on Queen is doing a roaring trade. Still with perma-smiles from another successful gig at the International Comedy Festival we retire to Stark's Espresso & Champagne Bar on the bottom floor of The Civic Theatre.

My only previous experience of Stark's was for coffee or an early evening beer at the International Film Festival, but later at night it's buzzing along to the new Kings of Leon album. Named after Freda Stark who danced in just a shimmering veneer of gold paint at the Civic in the 1940s, (apparently the American troops used to book the entire venue when she was performing), it's a thoroughly versatile spot that demands a second look. Inside is an art deco homage to Freda, and the whole interior is decked out in lustrous gold paint. With Auckland's most stunning theatre sitting above, Stark's role as a champagne bar makes perfect sense. Bubbles punctuate the cocktail list, and there's a list of eight champagnes of various vintages that are probably pretty popular when The Civic hosts a red-carpet event. On the beer front Monteiths flies the local flag, while Budvar and Kronenbourg add a Euro touch that fits well with the cosy heritage space inside. With moody lights and a stunning bar, inside it's not too difficult too imagine you're in somewhere like Prague and Paris. Outside the illusion crumbles though with a cavalcade of hotted-up Subaru Imprezas. Who would want to sit drinking and gazing out upon inner city Auckland's interminable road works anyway?

Stark's really is a bar of two halves.

For a bar that's feels nicely European there's a good range a New Zealand wines with a mix of well-known labels and boutique vineyards like Astrolabe's Riesling and Squawking Magpie Chardonnay. A few bar snacks like panini are also available.

Apparently The Civic narrowly escaped demolition in the 1980s. With a great little bar like Stark's downstairs we should all raise a glass or three to all those that ensured its survival.

Stark's Cafe and Bar has been reviewed by 8 users

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