More than three years after its doors closed, and after an 80m journey that saw it end up back where it began, the Birdcage is open once again.
In its latest incarnation, the former Rob Roy Hotel is now home to a restaurant, aptly named Birdcage.
Three years ago, lounge bar Shanghai Lil’s moved out of the historic hotel to make way for the New Zealand Transport Authority’s plans to shift the building out of the way while the Victoria Park Tunnel was being built.
Now after being slid 40m along special concrete runway beams, where it stayed for six months, then being slid back to its original location, the 127-year-old building has been revived.
The newly refurbished Birdcage restaurant opened at midday yesterday, with co-owner Frith Griggs confident it was going to be popular among Aucklanders.
“Everybody seems to have fond memories of this building,” she says. “I think we’re going to be really busy.”
She and Phil Houston, both former managers at Iguacu Restaurant in Parnell, were looking for somewhere to start a restaurant, and when they walked into the Birdcage they knew it was the right place.
“We were looking for a site in a great location that had an amazing feeling,” Ms Griggs says. “We just walked in here and we could see it. The atmosphere and feeling in the building is just fantastic.”
Ms Griggs says the building was in demand, but luckily NZTA liked what she and Mr Houston were proposing.
“I think what we wanted to do suited the vision they had for the site.
“[They] were fantastic, really supportive of what we wanted to do.”
The restaurant company took over the site in October and everyone has been working hard to get it ready for customers. The restaurant was supposed to open last Wednesday, but delays in the newly-built kitchen addition meant it was postponed until yesterday.
“The kitchen was a bit behind, resource consent took a few days. We decided not to rush, and get things right.”
Ms Griggs says they are really pleased with how everything has turned out.
“We’re really proud of how it’s looking.”
Although the building has been redecorated on the inside, Ms Griggs says they wanted to keep a lot of its old-world charm.
“We wanted to really try to keep a lot of the original features [as well as] modernise it a bit.”
Original doors, fireplaces and stained-glass windows are still in place, as well as bare brick walls.
Keeping the “Birdcage” name became an obvious choice once it was discovered the words could not be removed from the front of the building.
“People have fond memories of the Birdcage, people are going to refer to it as ‘the Birdcage’,” Ms Griggs says.
The atmosphere of the place aims to be quite low-key, with stylish yet simple food.
“It’s really approachable, everyday, share-food,” Ms Griggs says.
“[It’s] designed to share with friends.”
The menu has a long list of small plates for people to share, as well as large share boards which a whole table can nibble on. There are also a range of pizzas and cheeses.
“We hope this is a place where people can call in, eat and drink where you feel comfortable. It’s very relaxed.”
The wine, beer and cocktail list is extensive, with wines from around New Zealand and the world, and cocktails such as 'The Rob Roy' and 'The Franklin'.
By noon yesterday the restaurant was already filling up, with people keen to be the first to try the wares of the new Birdcage.
“It feels like people have been waiting,” Ms Griggs says.
Birdcage is at 133 Franklin Road, Auckland. Restaurant details on its Facebook page.