Last weekend we spent time in Wellington catching up with friends and family and generally mooching around the shops. I think we are so use to the great summer weather that when we do have the odd wet and cooler day we are not prepared for it. I certainly wasn’t dressed for rain so indoors we ventured and it was nice just to brows in the shops and take time out.

I have two favourite restaurants in Wellington, one I go to occasionally and the other more often. I like both of them because of the ambiance, décor, great service and excellent food. The restaurant and bar we tend to frequent most is The Southern Cross Garden Bar and Restaurant, both for dining and dancing. I love this venue!

The building is over 100 years old and was renovated to its current shape and form by Wellington’s award winning Architect John Mills. John is renowned for his very personal designs and unique work. The Cross as it is more favourably referred to is a hive of activity and caters to a wide audience from private functions, dance parties, fresco dining, more intimate dining, family gatherings, bar facilities with good old fashioned service. You can find a quiet space and work or relax, play board games or read a newspaper or simply enjoy the different nights of entertainment on offer.

John Mills has created a Retro space with some areas being strictly retro and others with a twist. Perhaps that is why I like it, because it relates to my 1970’s Retro teen years. On dining there Sunday night with family I decided I liked it because of its relaxed friendly atmosphere and the fact that the whole complex is divided into different zones depending on what your mood is for the day or evening.
There is a lounge bar where you can dine, towards the back of the building which is like stepping back in time to someone’s home. The floor is carpeted in a 1950’s floral carpet, the chairs are comfortable lounge chairs that many of us grew up with and the lighting is subdued and warm. The walls are hung with those very family paintings and ornaments that many of us grew up with or remember from our grandparent’s home. You can sit and have a quiet conversation over dinner without having to shout at each other or hear the next door diner’s conversation. A very welcoming space!
I have often sat outside with friends from Wellington Batucada and had a quiet drink after their band practice then danced to the salsa beats on the dancefloor inside. The outdoor area is divided into ‘rooms’ so you can dine undercover in the rain or in the open air or sit with friends either side long tables not unlike my grandmothers kitchen table. It is a little bit like walking into a private courtyard, decorated for comfort, with strung paper lanterns, an outdoor fire for the chillier evenings and an outdoor kitchen and bar. The courtyard is tiered so you feel that your area of dining or socializing is more private.
We tend to dine mainly in the relaxed dining area at the front of the venue. This area definitely has a retro feel with Formica tables and chairs all mismatched. Vases of flowers on the tables, quirky lights and shades hang from the partially clad stained ply ceiling. The walls are either wallpapered in retro modern patterns or patterned paint finishes and there is added bonus of the old beaded curtain dividing part of the room from the entrance. It is a very comfortable and relaxed space to dine in. The complete complex is very alive with colour, various texture finishes and patterns, but it works well. Perhaps it works because it feels a little like the home we once knew when life was at a slower pace and we took more time to share and socialize in real time, face to face.


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