Cuisine - - CONTENTS -

Tracy Whit­mey ex­plores Auck­land's Civic Theatre

WHEN WE STARTED to plan the Cuisine Good Food Awards 2018, we knew that we wanted the an­nounce­ment cel­e­bra­tion to be fab­u­lous – a big night to cel­e­brate all the won­der­ful folk that pour their heart and soul into hos­pi­tal­ity to en­sure that we, the din­ers, have a great time.

And so be­gan the search for the just the right venue, re­sult­ing in a valu­able part­ner­ship with Auck­land Con­ven­tions Venues & Events. Our brief was for a truly spec­tac­u­lar set­ting, a place that would make our guests feel spe­cial and demon­strate to them the high re­gard in which they are held. The minute we set foot in The Civic Theatre we knew that we had found what we were wish­ing for.

Step­ping into the foyer you are sur­rounded by the ori­en­tal splendour of an In­dian tem­ple gar­den. Our guests were served drinks amid the op­u­lence of times past, a riot of gold and mar­ble, seated bud­dhas, or­nate plas­ter­work, domed ceil­ings, twisted col­umns and ele­phant stat­ues (we’re told there are 414 of them, though we couldn’t count them all).

Mov­ing into the main au­di­to­rium for the awards cer­e­mony, the mood changed sub­tly to an ex­trav­a­gant Moor­ish gar­den with tur­rets, minarets, spires and tiled roofs, be­neath a night sky sparkling with stars and Abyssinian pan­thers with green-glow­ing eyes flank­ing the stage.

Cre­ated by Thomas O’brien as an at­mo­spheric cin­ema, The Civic is a glam­orous throw­back to the days when cin­e­mas were mo­tion-pic­ture palaces de­signed to de­light and en­tice. Built in just 33 weeks from June to De­cem­ber 1929, The Civic orig­i­nally fea­tured NZ’S largest Wurl­itzer or­gan atop a ‘lip­stick-rise’ col­umn, and a full-sized gon­dola or barge that rose from the or­ches­tra pit, lift­ing 30 mu­si­cians to the level of the stage as they played.

In an ar­ti­cle ti­tled “Ori­en­tal Splen­dor – In­dia comes to Queen Street”,

The Sun news­pa­per re­ported: Through­out the whole of this Theatre the gen­eral ef­fect is an out­door one, with the ex­cep­tion that in parts of the foyer the vis­i­tor is given the im­pres­sion of stand­ing on the bal­cony of an In­dian Tem­ple look­ing out through the nu­mer­ous rich sculp­tures of the dis­tant evening sky. Nu­mer­ous coloured flow­ers and creep­ers are ar­tis­ti­cally placed to give a touch of age and na­ture and add life to the stiff­ness of the rich ar­chi­tec­tural mas­sive­ness.

Step­ping into the foyer you are sur­rounded by the ori­en­tal splendour of an In­dian tem­ple gar­den.

... a riot of gold and mar­ble, seated bud­dhas, or­nate plas­ter­work, domed ceil­ings, twisted col­umns and ele­phant stat­ues.

For its cre­ator, the cin­ema was not merely a place of en­ter­tain­ment but a sym­bol of Auck­land’s sta­tus.

In a state­ment is­sued at The Civic’s open­ing O’brien an­nounced, “With supreme con­fi­dence in the fu­ture of Auck­land, and with grat­i­tude to those who have toiled with me in this great En­deav­our, I present to my fel­low cit­i­zens the con­sum­ma­tion of an ideal – the cre­at­ing of a place of en­ter­tain­ment sym­bol­is­ing the pro­gres­sive spirit of our beau­ti­ful city.”

No mat­ter that the gold was just paint and the ‘mar­ble’ was in fact plas­ter, ev­ery ef­fort was made in 1929 to give Auck­lan­ders’ the best ex­pe­ri­ence. In 1929 The Civic’s own bi-weekly mag­a­zine The Civic Re­view boasted: A com­pre­hen­sive a la carte menu pro­vides a fas­ci­nat­ing va­ri­ety of del­i­ca­cies for all meals. The cuisine is con­ducted en­tirely on the premises un­der the most mod­ern hy­gienic con­di­tions, the huge plant rep­re­sent­ing the lat­est progress in ef­fi­ciency. Noth­ing in fact, has been over­looked in at­tain­ing culi­nary per­fec­tion.

De­mon­strat­ing that the ideals of hos­pi­tal­ity burn just as strongly to­day, Mar­ija Ge­can, Auck­land Con­ven­tions Gen­eral Man­ager Sales said, “We feel just as pas­sion­ate about show­cas­ing the very best that New Zealand has to of­fer when it comes to our flour­ish­ing hos­pi­tal­ity in­dus­try. De­liv­er­ing an ex­cit­ing, cre­ative and mem­o­rable ex­pe­ri­ence for New Zealand’s top chefs, restau­ra­teurs and in­dus­try sup­pli­ers is a pri­or­ity for us.”

Back in 1929, Thomas O’brien strove to pro­vide “ed­i­fy­ing amuse­ment in the most ap­pro­pri­ate of set­tings,” – we hope our guests agree that, to­gether with our part­ners, we nailed it.

The team at Auck­land Con­ven­tions of­fer New Zealand’s largest port­fo­lio of unique and ver­sa­tile venues for events rang­ing from 10 people (The Art Gallery’s Board­room) up to 4,500 (The Cloud’s ground floor ex­hi­bi­tion space) and ev­ery­thing in be­tween. They de­liver a di­verse range of events: fash­ion, busi­ness, food & bev­er­age, arts, con­ven­tions and ac­ti­va­tions, many of them pro­vid­ing an op­por­tu­nity to work with Auck­land Coun­cil and give back to the com­mu­nity. They work closely with Auck­land Live and other busi­ness units, Auck­land Art Gallery, Auck­land Zoo and Auck­land Sta­di­ums to en­gage in mak­ing Auck­land a more live­able and vi­brant city for res­i­dents and vis­i­tors.

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