Reviews & awards
In its seventeen years of operation, it has been recommended by many publications and has consistently been a finalist in the Cuisine NZ Good FoodAwards, winning “Best Wine Experience” in the 2014 awards.
“In Auckland’s competitive restaurant scene, O’Connell Street Bistro’s 17 years in business render it a classic. It’s the trusted haunt of choice for the numerous ad execs, lawyers & property moguls who count it as a neighbour, but it also plays excellent host to urbane tourists, gatherings of friends and cosy couples. It has old fashioned values – linen napery, quality glassware, knowledgeable service – but contemporary smarts. The menu delivers plenty of the bistro favourites that the restaurant’s regulars demand as well as more intriguing options – octopus carpaccio with tempura crayfish, gremolata and saffron paprika mayonnaise is a masterclass in the layering of delicate flavours. Proprietor Chris Upton’s wine list is legendary and the fact that diners are assured of expert guidance from his waitstaff even when Upton isn’t around is testament to just how professional this operation is. ”
Cuisine Good Food Awards 2014
“Here in this cosy inner-city bistro, everything is as it should be; the wait staff are relaxed and impeccable, smart and thoughtful. Their extensive knowledge is delivered in a manner that wards off any pretensiousness and protects diners from feeling self-conscious in any way. The dining room is not lavish, nor does it need to be – it’s a bistro after all.
Now Upton looks to have made another clever decision in teaming up with Strobach who has left well alone with the continued inclusion on the menu of some of their reputation-building signature dishes – the pappardelle with braised rabbit and parmesan being one – but introduced new dishes that sound so irresistibly and classically attuned to a bistro that I sense another long chapter of brilliance may just have begun.”
9.5/10 Viva, New Zealand Herald 29 May 2013
“O’Connell Street is the CBD’s great, classic restaurant, for 16 years now the tenderly nurtured brainchild of Chris Upton. He’s built up a very impressive wine list, tutored his staff to consistent standards of excellence, coaxed from his kitchens a series of reliably superb dishes – including the best steak tartare in town, a wondrous rabbit pappardelle and what must be thousands upon thousands of oysters.”
Metro Top 50 ~ Best Smart Dining 2013 & Metro Top 10 Restaurants
“O’Connell Street is a restaurant that is standing its culinary ground; protecting its unique space in a crowded market. This is classically prepared food and excellent service delivered in an environment of quiet consistency and total satisfaction.”
Kerry Tyack ~ Cuisine Magazine : March 2013
“O’Connell Street provides that rare mix of classic bistro food against an elegant, romantic backdrop. The service is superb, wine choices are exceptional, the cuisine faultless and the prices reasonable considering the quality. A star player in the orchestra of downtown dining options. ” Food 9/10 Service 9/10 Value 8/10 Ambience 8/10.
Carroll du Chateau ~ Canvas Magazine NZ Herald : November 2012
“While it’s clearly a bistro, O’Connell Street takes the classic interpretation of the label. Yes, you’ll find chicken liver parfait and scotch fillet with onion rings on its menu, but pure white table linen, top quality glassware and a highly esteemed wine list mark it out as a restaurant that’s serious about the finer details. Deservedly popular with the business lunch set, O’Connell Street’s also a worthy destination for a polished night out.”
Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2012
“The steak tartare, served with shoestring fries, is still our favourite in all Auckland, and it’s one of many classics we hope to return for many times. The little touches make a big impact – pink salt, heaps of parmesan shaved from a moulis – and there is a huge choice of wine by the glass and half bottle, with great beer & spirits lists too.”
Metro Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2012
“O’Connell Street is the kind of polished performer you might find anywhere in the world – a Parisien alleyway; a London mews; a Brooklyn backstreet. Lucky Aucklanders then, that it’s nestled just behind the city’s High St. Customers run the gamut from lovers whispering in the corner to bankers entertaining – the cosy space (a former bank vault) works well no matter what your purpose.
White clothed tables, Laguiole cutlery and weighty glassware set a sophisticated scene while the standout wine list will help you shake off the cares of the day: owner Chris Upton has developed what’s surely one of the country’s best cellars. The menu offers bistro classics, such as the pappardelle of succulent braised wild rabbit that’s been on the menu for 10 years. Chef Stephen Ward delivers refined dishes with big flavours while the waitstaff are knowledgeable, asute & welcoming.”
Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2011
“In the hands of veteran restaurateur, Chris Upton, O’Connell St Bistro is one of those places that are the near-perfect expression of themselves. Off-menu but always in our hearts is the steak tartare – still the finest in town – and the wine list has remained, year after year, a benchmark for others to measure themselves by.
The Best Smart Dining Restaurant 2011 has been knocking on the “award winners” door for some time now, and we are delighted to name it number one in that category. ”
Winner Best Smart Dining Restaurant
Metro Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2011
“From the first forkful of my main I was rendered speechless, capable only of making small noises of pleasure. Wide, tender ribbons of pappardelle were tossed with rich, dark braised rabbit meat. Bacon gave the dish even more depth and a watercress walnut pesto added a sweet, peppered lift. A dusting of parmigiano reggiano topped it off with a sharp, nutty finish. The pool of broth at the bottom of the dish was indescribably glorious but, as it’s my job to put words to the experience, I’ll try: like a forest floor, wild herbs chasing game, rich and light at the same time…And did I mention the wine list ?
Probably one of Auckland’s best. Dining at O’Connell St Bistro you could be anywhere in the world, but lucky for us, this fine bistro is nestled in our city.”
9/10 ~ NZ Herald “Viva” 3 November 2010
“Deservedly an inner-city favourite for 13-odd years since it opened, O’Connell Street is a sophisticated restaurant reminiscent of the backstreet bistros of Paris. Sequestered in a former bank vault, the rooms are small & intimate, with broad windowsills that make the perfect repositories for the bottles of wine that are such a rewarding part of the experience here. Owner Chris Upton has a special interest in wine and he has built up arguably one of the best lists in the country, along with an impressive cellar. Put yourself in his capable hands for guidance on the ideal matches with chef Stephen Ward’s excellent bistro menu.”
Cuisine NZ Restaurant of the Year Awards 2010
“This restaurant is regarded by some as the partners’ canteen serving the law firms in Shortland St’s tower blocks. Which means the food has to be smart, filling and delicious, the wine list long and stimulating, and every little detail attended to just so. O’Connell St gets all that right, and makes it look so easy. So impressive.”
Runner up, Smart Casual
Metro Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2010
“Chris Upton’s excellent bijou bistro has consistently delivered a smart dining experience for more than 12 years. Chef Stephen Ward uses high quality produce on his tight menu, shying away from too many current trends and providing robust flavours and amply portioned servings. John Logan capably oversees the dining room, bringing maturity and professionalism to the experience. The judges noted that O’Connell Street’s staff are exemplary and should be the template for other service staff around the country. A class act.”
Cuisine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2009
“What must restaurateurs do to get the tone for fine dining right in this city ? They should, of course, serve beautifully cooked food. They should have a wine list strong on boutique New Zealand labels, mixed with discerningly well-chosen imports and a top-of-the-line cellared range for the true connoisseurs. Their restaurant’s tableware, decor and general ambience should all enhance the sophisticated pleasures of the dining experience. O’Connell Street Bistro does all of this.”
Winner Best Service
Metro Magazine Restaurant of the Year Awards 2009
In April 2007 the Bistro was named by Vanity Fair on Travel magazine as one of 42 top dining spots around the world & was the only restaurant in New Zealand featured.
“This smart and rather chic central bistro has only 12 tables, but size is not what O’Connell’s is about. Great emphasis is placed on wine and all the great NZ names are here, with a few boutique wineries thrown in.”
Vanity Fair on Travel – April 2007