Auck­land restau­rant to the stars set to change hands

Sunday Star-Times - - News - HE­LEN KING

It has long been a favourite haunt of the glit­terati, a place to be and be seen; famed for host­ing long lunches and one of the epi­cen­tres of Auck­land’s in­fa­mous latte sip­ping cul­ture.

Now the world-fa­mous-in-Auck­land SPQR restau­rant, proudly lo­cated on Pon­sonby Rd, is on the mar­ket for the first time since the 1990s.

Tables line the foot­path out­side the restau­rant, for­merly a motorcycle garage.

World fash­ion la­bel co-founder Denise L’Es­trange-Cor­bet – ‘‘a reg­u­lar since they opened the doors’’ – or­ders a mush­room pizza ev­ery time she vis­its.

She doesn’t like to think how much money she’s spent there over that time.

‘‘SP’’ is, she reck­ons, a main­stay of Pon­sonby Rd, a place where you never know what will hap­pen but can guar­an­tee it will be fab­u­lous.

L’Es­trange-Cor­bet’s daugh­ter, Peb­bles, cel­e­brated her sixth birth­day there, dressed as a fairy.

She cred­its co-owner Chris Rupe and his staff for cre­at­ing a place where the weird and won­der­ful are cel­e­brated.

‘‘It’s bro­ken down so many bar­ri­ers, SP was one of the first gay wel­com­ing restau­rants in Auck­land.’’

Rupe took over the restau­rant with busi­ness part­ner Paula Mack in 1998.

Other no­table high-pro­file din­ers in­clude Amer­ica’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks who dined there when she vis­ited New Zealand in 2009, singer Sam Smith was spot­ted dur­ing his tour, and lo­cal so­cialites in­clud­ing the cast of The Real Housewives of Auck­land are regulars.

Rolling Stones front­man Mick Jag­ger, and Boy Ge­orge have also en­joyed nights out there.

Broad­caster Bill Ral­ston, renowned for the odd long lunch, re­mem­bers when it first opened.

He watched with fas­ci­na­tion from the cafe across the road as the build­ing was ren­o­vated from a greasy garage.

‘‘The day it opened, I thought it’s still be­ing built, it didn’t look fin­ished. We use to call it Sad­dam Hus­sein’s bunker.’’

But he has whiled away many an hour at SPQR in the years since then.

His favourite mem­ory was dur­ing the Rugby World Cup when ‘‘it was pos­i­tively rock­ing all times of day.’’

SPQR is the ini­tials of the Latin phrase Se­na­tus Pop­u­lusque Ro­manus, mean­ing The Ro­man Se­nate and Peo­ple.


Amer­ica’s Next Top Model host Tyra Banks dined at SPQR, pic­tured above, dur­ing a 2009 visit to Auck­land.

Rolling Stones front­man Mick Jag­ger dropped in for din­ner in 2006, while Cul­ture Club singer Boy Ge­orge paid a visit in 2007.

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