Auckland restaurant to the stars set to change hands
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.