• Jeremy Wells and Matt Nicholls,

    Jeremy Wells and Matt Nicholls,

Bars & Restaurants

Raising the Bar

Matt Nicholls is one third of the ownership team at Bedford Soda & Liquor. Jeremy Wells, who’s moved from Eating Media Lunch to serving up breakfast on Hauraki, is another third of the team that’s creating a bit of a stir with Bedford, the latest bar/eatery to arrive in Takapuna.

Takapuna is Bedford’s first foray beyond Ponsonby Central, where, after three and a half years, it is well-known to locals. Just as the concept (US cocktail bar meets casual New York street food) is new to Takapuna, so too is the fit-out, with a vibe that fits well with the casual Takapuna lifestyle.

Matt and Jeremy admit the match of cocktails with meatballs, subs and sliders (the mainstays of the food menu) may seem incongruous. But as Jeremy says, “There’s a lot of pretence and snobbery around cocktails, and we thought why can’t you serve nice drinks with really good New York street food.”

“We’re aiming to take the pretentiousness out of cocktails,” adds Matt. “We’re a neighbourhood bar with a cocktail programme.”

The beverage “programme,” while based around cocktails, also includes handmade sodas plus beer and wine; all guests are offered table service, whether for drinks or food or both; and the quirky menu takes meal customisation to a new level, with guests offered a laminated menu and wipeable marker to select meatball, sub or slider type, plus your selection of sauces, “under balls” (spaghetti, mash, polenta…) and greens to accompany the meatballs.

It’s all inspired by the New York cocktail culture, and appreciation of the US service ethic. But Bedford is not a cocktail bar in the New York tradition. Nor, contrary to expectation because of the seated service, is it a restaurant – though the food list also includes a kids’ menus (just $8).

“It’s tricky [describing it],” acknowledges Jeremy. “Because there’s an accessible food option, there’s a contradiction with the cocktail image.”

“It’s a friendly neighbourhood bar with a cocktail programme,” says Matt; “a friendly neighbourhood bar with tasty meatballs and beautifully presented drinks.”

There’s also an element of theatre. Cocktails are delivered to your table (for really over-the-top presentation, try the Copper Kettle or the Hawaiian Time with edible flowers and brilliant blue ice served in an enclosed Czechoslovakian glass sphere). As Jeremy says, it’s an experience. “You can only have a certain number of drinks, and people want spectacular drinks. We’d like people to go away intrigued, but having had a really good time.”

It’s early days yet, but Matt and Jeremy believe North Shore locals will take to Bedford’s formula just as inner city hipsters have. “It’s a different service style – we want to bring elements of the New York cocktail culture to Takapuna,” they say. It’s already proving popular for date nights, says Matt, and for girls’ nights out, early evening family dinners, and casual group dining.

“We’re excited about getting into Takapuna,” says Matt. “We’re introducing a happy hour from 5-7pm to reinforce the bar aspect to the business.”

Bedford is a great place to experiment, Jeremy adds, so go for some of the bolder cocktails. “When I’ve done tastings there hasn’t been one drink I don’t like.”

Bedford Soda & Liquor, McKenzie Precinct, 21 Hurstmere Road, Takapuna 09 4862794, www.bedfordsodaliquor.co.nz

Open Mon-Thur from 4pm, Fri-Sun from 12pm.

By Christine Young

Channel Magazine: Issue 77 June 2017

Eating Out articles by Christine Young