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Astoria back: One of Wellington’s oldest cafes reopens after 18 months of closure

A refurbished Astoria cafe has reopened after closing in December 2020.

Ross Giblin

A refurbished Astoria cafe has reopened after closing in December 2020.

A well-known cafe that shocked Wellington foodies when it suddenly closed 18 months ago has reopened with a new look and menu.

Astoria in Midland Park, originally opened in 1996, was one of the capital’s oldest cafés and a must-see place to see and be seen. Its proximity to the Parliament, the courthouses and its capacity of nearly 150 places have made it a regular place for all kinds of networking and small talk.

In 2013, a young Labor backbench MP, Jacinda Ardern, was pictured there sympathizing with Grant Robertson after his failed Labor leadership. Former Prime Minister Don Brash was a regular at this favorite table around 2011.

James Pask, chief executive of the Yu Group, says the pandemic has delayed completion of the development.

Ross Giblin / Stuff

James Pask, chief executive of the Yu Group, says the pandemic has delayed completion of the development. “We had a few hiccups along the way.”

Now the cafe is open again after a complete reconstruction of the place’s interior and kitchen.

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Oscar Schicker 6, Marc Schicker and Vinetya Harza enjoy first day back at Astoria Cafe.

Ross Giblin

Oscar Schicker 6, Marc Schicker and Vinetya Harza enjoy first day back at Astoria Cafe.

James Pask, chief executive of Yu Group Owners, said he was “very, very happy” to be open again after the pandemic delayed the opening date.

“We had a few hiccups along the way.”

The room’s decor was brought back to concrete with dim lighting, a range of seating and a 13-metre bar, crowned by a custom-made suspended wooden beam, as the focal point of the room.

Don Brash at his favorite table in Astoria in 2011.

Ross Giblin / Stuff

Don Brash at his favorite table in Astoria in 2011.

The menu has also been revitalized with an emphasis on New York charcuterie and Italian cuisine “with our own twist”.

A take-out window will allow coffee and food to flow to customers seated in the park and the cafe’s opening hours have also been extended into the evening. Pask said the intention was to accommodate a quick coffee stop alongside a longer dining experience.

THING

A cascade of central problems from Wellington left behind a struggling Golden Mile.

“The venue has the ability to allow people to settle in for a night out or stop in on their way to town,” he said.

When it reopened on Wednesday, Marc Schicker and his family had just returned to Wellington from Singapore. Schicker had a background in design and had taken his own photos of the new layout.

“Astoria has been around forever, so it was nice to come back. It looks fantastic,” Schicker said.

Richard Dement

The author Richard Dement