Inspiration for celebrating ‘local’ as we head into the festive season

Now that we’re all beginning to enjoy the social freedom of Covid Alert Level 1 it’s a good
time to start planning end of year celebrations with friends, family and workmates.

Although no one needs an excuse to get out and support some of the country’s talented artists, chefs, musicians and hospitality folk, end of year festivities are a great reason to do so. Whether it’s a long lunch, a formal Christmas function, or a delicious food basket, the wider Ponsonby area has just about everything you need.

We have dedicated local retailers, markets supporting local artisans and producers, pop-up stores and fantastic improv style performances at Ponsonby’s own Covert Theatre. From documentary film festivals (check out DocEdge festival at the Civic on 22 November) to farmer’s markets, staying and buying local offers so many benefits. The economies we create when we keep our transactions local and diverse can be one of the most beneficial things we can do for our community. Long time economic activist and scholar, Helena Norberg-Hodge, has been arguing for localism since the 70s and now more than ever its value is being realised.

A recent New York Times article explored Norberg-Hodges belief that by prioritising localism and rejecting globalism we can make the environment healthier and people happier. Norbet-Hodges, who has been starting and supporting farmer’s markets since the 70s, long before they were popular, believes that Covid-19 has revealed how fragile the global economy can be and in contrast just how resilient and vital our local economies are.

It’s certainly an approach Ponsonby News readers can easily apply to their everyday shopping and in the lead up to Christmas. Shorter distances are healthier than longer distances for commerce and human interaction, so get walking or cycling out to our local places. The Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market is just one of the great places to start.

Beautiful Brunches

Brunch with friends is an easy way to get together and reflect on the year and celebrate a bigger, brighter, better 2021. Many of our local cafes continue to innovate their offerings responding to the challenging times, and local business people are committed to supporting them.Charlotte Kofoed of Sotheby’s real estate loves Mary’s, an incredibly popular cafe with so many people we speak to lately.

“I hold a lot of meetings there as it’s a quieter café with a very relaxed atmosphere. The staff are lovely and there is a courtyard for outdoor seating as well as the comfy indoor area,” shared Charlotte. Situated in the old St Mary’s Bay Fire Station the brunch menu is mouth watering and on the weekend we suspect it isn’t so quiet.

Long Lunches and drinks in the summer breeze

You can’t beat a long lunch at SPQR; an institution on Ponsonby’s main strip, and a fantastic place for a long end of year lunch in the sun. Chris Rupe of SPQR says that so far locals and regulars have shown amazing support and the SPQR team are extremely grateful.

“People are wanting to move on, and I think people have accepted this year for what it is. They’ve spent a lot of time with their families, at home cooking, eating together, but now they are wanting to get out a bit more,” he suggests.

Chris acknowledges it has been tough for everyone across the hospitality industry but feels people are now wanting to find small ways to celebrate, whether it’s birthdays anniversaries or showing their staff they’re really appreciated. Of course, budget has become even more of concern than ever and Chris and the team are always trying to find ways to make it work for people.

“What we’re doing is trying to make our dining experiences accessible. We have set menus that start from $39 and our Saturday Ladies Lunch is a great way to get together and celebrate.”

Ponsonby Road Bistro, Jervois Steak House, Andiamo’s and Malt Public House all have tempting offers covering lunch, dinner and something in between to show locals just how much they love them.

Malt Public House is cementing its place as the local go-to, and found Covid has really highlighted their connection to the neighbourhood.

“We feel that after the Covid lock-downs people wanted to stay closer to home, and realized the benefit of having a great local pub with excellent service right on their doorstep. This year we are seeing people choose Malt, more as a destination rather than a kick off point before heading on to other precincts, coming more often and staying longer. We were very lucky to hold our annual Oktoberfest event for the 4th time this year, just 3 days after entering Level 1 and a great day was had by all. We are not out of the woods yet, but are extremely grateful for the support we continue to receive from our local neighbourhood,” says Shane McDonagh, operations manager for Malt Public House.

For those who prefer a plant based diet it would be hard not to want to support Khu Khu Vegan Thai, who have not only had to contend with the stress of Covid lockdowns but have also been closed for
a month due to a fire on their premises. With the relaunch scheduled for the end of October, regulars and locals will be able to again enjoy Khu Khu Thai’s signature vegan dishes, including Penang Vegan Curry and Crispy Sliced Daiken.

“We have been getting enquiries for end of year bookings and celebrations which has been difficult as we have been closed since the fire. I think businesses are wanting to show staff they are appreciated and now we can finally start taking their bookings”, says Michael Khuwattansenee, owner of Khu Khu Thai.

Music, Markets and Theatre
With Auckland’s move to Alert Level 1 and the restriction on gathering sizes being removed, outdoor concerts, festivals and markets seem like a great way to enjoy a little more social time without being closed up indoors.

Grey Lynn Park Festival - 21 November 2020
This is fun for the whole family and wider community. Local artists and artisans create a relaxed fun and entertaining vibe with great music, and food. If you’re Christmas shopping already you are sure to find sustainably created products which is just one of the many reasons
to share your purchasing love at this year’s festival.

Daniel Tohill, organiser of the Grey Lynn Festival says it’s going to be a great one this year. “We have an incredible lineup with some great Auckland musicians, a new Talk Tent that covers everything from urban agriculture to alternative money systems, and we’ll have our Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern and new central Auckland MP, Chlöe Swarbrick on stage for a chat.

“On the music stages this year there will be performances by The Dawns, Rize Biza, Amila, Beachwave Illbaz, Johns Comb, Liaka, Kepani, Halfqueen and Soujourn. Amber Clyde and the girls of Skate NZ will be at the skate ramp encouraging and empowering more girls to take up skateboarding. There’s really something for everyone. Heaps for the kids, bin fairies and clown doctors. Keep your eye out for them on 21 November,” adds Tohill.

Grey Lynn is also home of the famous Grey Lynn Farmers’ Market which is now in full swing. In November the 100% locally owned market will feature all your favourite stalls and this month organisers are encouraging everyone to get on board with Auckland Transport’s ‘November Walking Challenge’ and let their feet do all the work.

“We’re keeping our fingers crossed for an uninterrupted run up to Christmas so we can all enjoy some leisurely and social Sunday mornings at the market,” shared Caron Gunn, market manager.

Alpha markets are sure to make another appearance during November in the Sapphire Room at Ponsonby Central. They feature fantastic vintage clothing, jewellery, art and incredible ceramics - all beautiful local things you can buy for Christmas.

Ponsonby Social Club has some of the city’s best markets and hottest beats and during November the PSC markets will be running again with local artists, artisans, vintage dealers and more.

The Long Room has ‘Paint and Wine with Moonrise over Auckland’ on 10 November, plus other nights throughout the month. Buy a wine from Long Rooms great wine list, order some dinner and be guided through a night of creativity with the Paint Vine team. You may even find your finished painting makes a great Christmas gift.

In November the Auckland Town Hall and the Civic theatre are hosts to New Zealand musical talent. On November 6 indie band, The Beths, are playing at the Auckland Town Hall, then on November 14 the collaborative collective of Fly My Pretties, will entertain and enthral. This is followed by Th’ Dudes Th’ Bliss tour on November 19. November 20 at St Matthew-in-the-City fans can enjoy Elemental - A Night with Amanda Palmer. The American singer has been in New Zealand since the country went into lockdown earlier this year.

New Zealand’s new home of improvised live comedy, the Covert Theatre in the heart of Ponsonby will have you laughing out loud and thinking deeply. If you are looking for something to really make your end of year function memorable the Covert Theatre has you covered. You can commission a bespoke corporate performance or book a full show. These guys have entertained everyone from All Blacks to bankers with their side splitting thought provoking improv.

Bernadette Murphy, general manager of the theatre suggests everyone should come to see them this festive season.

“Our Improv Bandits are the ultimate in Christmas entertainment. You can book a full show or just bring your team down. Excellent wine, Il Bucco pizza and giggles... we would love you to have a laugh with us.”

It’s not just giggles, the Covert Theatre takes its place in the community seriously and always looks to support Ponsonby market days and events throughout the year. Some readers may have had the chance to enjoy free coffee and cupcakes at Covert Theatre’s recent open day during last month’s market day.

The Auckland’s Performing Arts Centre (TAPAC) has an eclectic range of events from a magical giant glow show (Te Moana Glow Show on 28 November) to Cuban Salsa workshops at the Tumbao Salsa Festival (28-29 November) to the award winning play ‘Love Letters’ translated into Hindi.

Dining with atmosphere
When it comes to fine dining and eating out with atmosphere, the wider Ponsonby area has always been a leader. Whether you opt for the famous discovery menu at the award winning Sidart, or some authentic Thai cuisine from Saan, you are eating at some of the country’s most highly acclaimed restaurants. From the French inspired Paris Butter, to the Japanese Peruvian fusion of Azabu, not being able to travel is no reason to not enjoy the tastes of the world.

Food Baskets, Cakes and Hampers
The increased popularity of staycations and the trend of keeping celebrations more intimate really lends itself to giving hampers and food baskets. Farros offers such a diverse range of hampers and there is one to suit every kind of foodie. From vegan and gluten free hampers to deluxe Artisan 2020 hampers, your Grey Lynn local has you covered.

Hampers have been popular all year for Sabato and Ponsonby local, Jacqui Watt, explains that hampers are both gifts and tokens of kindness.

“It’s been quite a year for people, a lot of whom have spent a lot more time in the kitchen! Our ingredients are both great quality and easy to use. You don’t have to be able to cook well, but just want to eat well. Our hampers are very user friendly as we include some ideas
and we can individualise them depending on need or desire - vegan, gluten-free and so on,” says Jacqui.

Sabato are in the midst of launching their famous Christmas hampers so they are expecting some busy, yet fun and exciting times ahead.

If it’s cakes you are after, then there is no better way of sharing the love and top the festive season off than something mouth-watering from The Caker. Taking the art of caking to a whole new level, Jordan Rondel and her sister Anouk, offer some of the most incredible looking (and incredible tasting) cakes in the hood. “I first fell in love with the art of baking cakes when I experienced the immense joy that gifting or sharing a cake could bring to the recipient. It quickly became obvious to me that cake brings happiness to any occasion, even if it’s not a happy occasion, and that’s why cake is so magical.”

Whether you buy off the shelf or order ahead, these cakes oozes local love.

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