What was Auckland like in 1886 when the Birdcage pub, then the Rob Roy hotel, first opened near its waterfront?
What dreams and dramas played out in its grand interior, now beautifully restored to gastropub glory?
These are some of the questions which the high ceilings and heavy wooden mouldings evoke when you wander around the Birdcage.
The Birdcage is something of a special story in the history of Auckland.
Thanks to some unusual architectural features like its oriole window, the building was protected when plans for the Vic Park tunnel were drawn up. The tunnel, unfortunately, was planned to run right through where the pub sits. Moving the entire building 40 metres without damaging it was a miracle of engineering and massive funds – well over two million dollars. The construction process wasn’t quick, and the pub was closed for many years, before being moved back to its location (now on top of the tunnel), refurbished and finally reopened again this year.
How does it fare today?
As well as falling in love with the interior, I was impressed by the smart serving staff – more like hotel-style service – and elegantly-presented food. The brunch menu was classic Auckland rather than creative (eggs bene, anyone?), but the food was well-prepared and the prices reasonable (consistent with other cafés when I might have expected to pay a premium for the famous location).
Well worth a visit when you’re in the trendy Freeman’s Bay / Vic Park area.