At Auckland bar-taverna Daphnes, Greece is the word

After selling their Auckland hotspots Odettes Eatery and Hugo’s, hospitality gurus Clare and Joost van den Berg planned to take a break, but as the saying goes, you can take the restaurateurs out of the restaurants… While on their sabbatical, Joost found himself on the trail of a new location, and when he discovered this one, he knew he was onto something. It was a definite yes from Clare too, who loved the charm and character of the standalone Ponsonby Road building. Welcome to Daphnes…

You guys have opened some iconic Auckland eateries in your time, Clare, including Herne Bay café Zus & Zo and Takapuna’s Zomer. What sparks your imagination? It’s always about creating something with a difference, something we believe is missing in the city and somewhere we’d like to go ourselves. 

How did you land on the idea for this Greek-taverna-style restaurant? We went to Greece on a family holiday in 2018 and absolutely loved everything about it. Sitting in a taverna in Paros, we discussed opening one in Auckland; the idea seemed wild at the time, but we’ve made it happen!

MAIN IMAGE Sydney sisters Sefton & Segedin created this artwork, My Daughters, in the front bar. The trio of Opal pendant lights in this zone are by Ferm Living from Slow. ABOVE “The colours I used are bold and it took some time to find the exact matches I was looking for, but I absolutely love Porter’s Paints for their off-tones and matte, eggshell finish,” says Clare.

Most people think whitewashed walls and sea blues when they think of Greece, but here you’ve opted for something richer… We wanted to do the unexpected, yet with definite nods to Greece. Terracotta’s another colour of the Mediterranean, so we’ve combined tonal terracotta hues, including the beautiful salmon that frames the exterior, with navy and light blues. I’m not a big fan of white, so we went with a warm cream instead. 

ABOVE “I never like too many white plates, so ‘Bold, patterned, textural and a little mismatched’ was the brief we gave to Waiheke potter Jane Burn,” says Clare of the tableware that also includes items like the ones pictured middle, purchased here and there. “She’s now making more pieces to add to our collection.” The tables pictured above are topped with porcelain from Artedomus, the No. 18 bentwood chairs are by Thonet, the wall lights are by Ornament and the candleholders are by Iittala.

What elements did you introduce to support the laidback-luxe vibe? I incorporated texture through patterns, tiles, walnut timber and the plasterwork by Zane Pilkington of Pilkington Interiors in the kitchen. It was essential to us that the open kitchen felt homely, like you’re having a Greek feast at your own dinner party, so the island benches are important and the main focus of the restaurant.

The textural wall effect also creates a lived-in mood — how did you achieve that? Through good luck — it was here already! I was adamant about keeping it to honour the space and also made sure we retained all of the exposed brick. 

ABOVE In Greek mythology, Daphne is a nymph associated with bodies of fresh water, and Clare says they went on a wonderful journey with New Zealand-born, Sydney- based artist Claire Stapleton to create this custom artwork that portrays her. “Claire is very clever and currently working on another piece for us that’ll tell the love story of Daphne and Apollo.” Among the tipples you can try at Daphnes are a selection of Greek wines, Greek beer Mythos and Greek aperitif ouzo. Here, bottles sit on a sideboard from The Sunday Society in Tamahere.

How did you get the light right? Lighting is so important for ambience, and here we’ve used it to give every zone a different feel. I worked with Sheelagh O’Dowd to make some lampshades, we had the beautiful light that runs along the dining room wall custom-made, and Gina Riley of Ornament created some lovely custom lighting for us as well. We also powdercoated a couple of the existing lights to give them a new look.
Vintage store Flotsam & Jetsam got hold of some lights that were part of a chandelier that hung in Ponsonby music venue the Gluepot Tavern, which closed in 1994. We loved the thought of using something from such an iconic landmark, so we had them rewired, and now they hang in our bathrooms.

Interview Alice Lines
Photography Jono Parker


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