Taranaki

Antony Rhodes finds that New Ply­mouth is full of hip eater­ies, cool ac­com­mo­da­tion and in­ter­est­ing shops.

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NNew Ply­mouth’s Devon Street is, a lo­cal shop­keeper as­sured me, the long­est main drag in the south­ern hemi­sphere. It’s also about the only thing I re­call from my last visit to Taranaki but driv­ing into the city for a long over­due week­end get­away, I got the sense that things had changed, a lot.

On Devon Street we pass signs point­ing to surf beaches and walk­ways - filed for fu­ture ref­er­ence - a healthy dose of good street art liven­ing up any blank spa­ces, gal­leries and de­sign shops, and count­less great-look­ing busy restaurants.

Our des­ti­na­tion was a very shiny ad­di­tion to Devon Street, and the cat­a­lyst for the city’s bur­geon­ing ‘west end’: A col­lec­tion of hip eater­ies, cool ac­com­mo­da­tion and in­ter­est­ing shops ge­o­graph­i­cally clus­tered around the Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery.

The gallery has been ex­hibit­ing con­tem­po­rary art since 1970, and in July last year opened a huge ex­ten­sion to en­able it to bet­ter show the works of New Zealand’s most fa­mous in­ter­na­tional artist Len Lye (1901-1980).

Lye left his life’s work in trust for dis­play in a pur­pose-built fa­cil­ity, and this stun­ning build­ing is it. It’s so im­pres­sive that even on a Fri­day evening we en­coun­tered peo­ple stand­ing on the street get­ting the perfect photo of it. We’d have plenty of op­por­tu­ni­ties to grab a photo: Our ac­com­mo­da­tion for the week­end was straight across the road.

The King and Queen Ho­tel Suites opened in 2013 and re­cently ex­panded to of­fer 28 lux­u­ri­ously ap­pointed rooms. From the mo­ment you en­ter the re­cep­tion you know it’s out of the or­di­nary, a fact con­firmed by man­ager Daniel Flem­ing, who runs us through our room’s ori­gins. Most of the fur­ni­ture was im­ported from Morocco, the cof­fee hails from the roast­ery down­stairs, and the heav­enly aroma in the lobby is from a can­dle from the bou­tique next door. Our room re­flected this in­de­pen­dent spirit, and was a won­der­fully cosy re­treat with views out to the sea.

The ho­tel over­looks a cou­ple of Euro­peanstyle court­yards, and in one of them we dis­cov­ered the aptly named Snug Lounge, where an oblig­a­tory wel­come drink quickly ex­tended to din­ner within the stun­ningly mod­ernised White Hart ho­tel.

The fol­low­ing morn­ing we set off to ex­plore the neigh­bour­hood, start­ing with a fresh cof­fee at Ozone Cof­fee Roast­ers, in the other of the ho­tel’s court­yards. The cof­fee was ex­cel­lent, and was quickly fol­lowed by a book­ing on their home brewing master­class that af­ter­noon, in the hopes of tak­ing the skills home. They take their cof­fee se­ri­ously here – so much so that they’ve set up shop in Lon­don.

From there it was time to head to the gallery, though not be­fore stop­ping to get our own pho­to­graphs of the truly stun­ning ar­chi­tec­ture. The com­mit­ment to great de­sign is con­tin­ued in the curved wall in­side, though this time in a very tac­tile con­crete fin­ish with small win­dows tucked be­hind the curves let­ting light in and of­fer­ing re­flected glimpses out­side and a hide and seek play­ground for kids.

The ramp leads us to a col­lec­tion of Len Lye’s ‘Foun­tain’ works, a for­est of metal rods that spin gen­tly, wav­ing and crash­ing. The shad­ows and re­flec­tions they cast on the walls are al­most as mes­meris­ing as the art­works them­selves.

We then en­counter ‘Ema­na­tions’, a global ex­hi­bi­tion of cam­era­less pho­tog­ra­phy, in which we quickly dis­cover Len Lye was a

pi­o­neer. His pho­tos of artists, ar­chi­tects and writ­ers are joined by art­works from col­lec­tions around the world. It’s a sur­pris­ingly fas­ci­nat­ing ex­hi­bi­tion which we fol­low into the ear­lier part of the Govett-Brew­ster Art Gallery, and wrap up our visit with a screen­ing in the gallery’s in­cred­i­bly cool new cinema, fea­tur­ing films which Len Lye drew, painted and scratched di­rectly onto the film. What couldn’t this man do? Buzzing from our brush with con­tem­po­rary art, we head back to the court­yard across the road for a late lunch at Pub­lic Cater­ing, a re­cent ad­di­tion to New Ply­mouth’s café cul­ture with a fab­u­lous se­lec­tion of baked goods then to the other court­yard for the Ozone cof­fee brewing work­shop. Suit­ably caf­feinated, we spent the rest of the af­ter­noon ex­plor­ing the shops of New Ply­mouth’s west end, no­tably the gallery nes­tled above the cool Jetcharm Bar­bers, Kina art and de­sign gallery, fan­tas­tic home­wares at Plan­ta­tion De­sign and su­per-stylish Et Vous bou­tique, for our own beau­ti­fully scented can­dle. We were sur­prised at what was on of­fer, all within the neigh­bour­hood. Din­ner was at the gallery’s swish Mon­ica’s Eatery, a nod to Mon­ica Brew­ster (nee Govett) who left her for­tune to es­tab­lish the gallery and its con­tem­po­rary art col­lec­tion. Both at­mos­phere and food are as good as you’d ex­pect along­side a world-class gallery, and the wood-fired oven im­bues a de­li­cious flavour to our Ital­ian-in­spired meals. On Sun­day morn­ing, we com­man­deered the King & Queen’s bikes and hit New Ply­mouth’s 13km Coastal Walk­way, which was teem­ing with peo­ple and in­cluded cof­fee stops Paris Plage at East End beach and The Kiosk over­look­ing the surf at Fitzroy. We made it to the in­ter­est­ing Te Rewa Rewa Bridge, and were af­forded the post­card photo through the bridge to the moun­tain, though the cy­cle park fur­ther on would have to wait un­til our next visit. Re­luc­tantly, we re­turned to the ho­tel and hit the road - though not be­fore one last cof­fee. Ev­ery­thing else this sur­pris­ingly cool city and its sur­round­ing re­gion has to of­fer will have to wait for the next visit, which, based on our ex­pe­ri­ence this week­end, won’t be too far away. Cap­tion Home brew with a dif­fer­ence a the Ozone Cof­fee Roast­ers work­shop.

Im­age: Pa­trick Reynolds

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