Head High, Euro, and Skyworld’s food court are three things that Auckland lost in 2021. Image: Archie Banal

SocietyDecember 18, 2021

Cue the in memoriam music: Every Auckland institution we lost in 2021 

Head High, Euro, and Skyworld’s food court are three things that Auckland lost in 2021. Image: Archie Banal

Gone, but not forgotten: a tribute to the things and places that left Tāmaki Makaurau this year.

It started in January, when Tony Astle announced his iconic, legendary, every-superlative-you-can-throw-at-it Parnell restaurant Antoine’s would close its doors after 47 years. The first domino had fallen. Many more, some temporary, others permanent, would soon follow.

Over the following months, things that Aucklanders take for granted, places we’ve grown to love, locations that have come to define New Zealand’s biggest city, were lost in the fog of lockdowns and concerns over the spread of the delta variant of Covid-19. Cafes, restaurants, bakeries, the film festival, and even the Paradise buffet, joined the parade of once-thriving businesses that found the environment too tough to keep going this year. 

It wasn’t all Covid’s fault. Some might have been on the way out anyway. Others, like Laneway, the film festival and the Mt Albert farmers market, may return. We have our fingers crossed. But, listed together, it marks a trend: for better, or worse, the city is changing. Is Tāmaki Makaurau coming back from a year like this? Perhaps that’s a question best left once the dust has settled in the New Year. 

For now, pour yourself a glass of something strong and raise a glass to the memories of all the good times we had at these Auckland institutions. That is all we have. For now, that is all they are.

January: Antoine’s

Tony Astle
Tony Astle closed Antoine’s in January (Photo: Simon Day)

Forty-seven years. That’s a long time to commit to something. For restaurateur Tony Astle, he used that time to turn Antoine’s into a Parnell institution, a fine-dining destination renowned for its white tablecloths, silver service, celebrity clientele eating duck and orange, and $20,000 bottles of wine. Antoine’s closed for personal reasons: in this in-depth interview with Michelle Langstone, Astle refused to reveal exactly why. All that’s left is a note on his website: “Although this is me signing off for now, there might be something new in the pipeline a bit later so keep your eyes peeled.” We may never know. What a legacy.

February: St Jerome’s Laneway Music Festival

Since its move to Albert Park, Laneway has become a summer staple for inner-city hipsters wanting a loud day out in the sun. It’s also an important stepping stone for artists: Benee, The Beths, Billie Eilish, Grimes and even Lorde have performed at the Australasian touring festival earlier in their careers before moving onto bigger things. This is the second year Laneway hasn’t been held, with closed borders making it too hard for organisers to pack out a lineup that delivers the best and freshest international talent each year. Good news is on the horizon: Laneway “will continue to operate as it always has”, according to this story.

March: Nido

Everyone who exits the north-western motorway and heads down Lincoln Road is reminded of Nido, a 27,000 square-metre building once hoped to become the country’s best furniture. Now, the big blue box that once had queues of cars stretching down the street for its opening weekend is empty, as investors try to get their money back. What happened? A combination of lockdowns, supply issues and funding problems. Furniture shoppers need not worry. Coming in the New Year? The country’s first Ikea store. Let’s hope it has more luck.

April: Woodpecker Hill

When the country’s first major lockdown ended in June, 2020, Woodpecker Hill owner Mark Wallbank felt rejuvenated. After five years, the Parnell eatery was given a full makeover, with a new menu combining the best of Korean and Japanese. Think fried chicken, cheeseburger baos, and house-made kimchi. By April, it was clear it wasn’t working. “Having taken stock of the current environment for hospitality in Auckland’s Parnell, we have made the difficult decision not to renew the lease on our much-loved restaurant space,” a Facebook note read. “Thanks for the good times.” The building remains empty. 

July: Young’s Bakery

The long line outside Young’s Bakery (Photo: Charlotte Muru-Lanning/Tina Tiller)

Queues around the block. Hour-long waits. What was going on? “What are you all lining up for?” asks a woman in a fleece vest walking by. “Cakes and pastries,” a man standing in line responds. “They must be good!” They were good, and then they were gone. The owners of the Birkenhead bakery announced their retirement, setting off a huge demand for their cakes, filled with winter melon, sesame seeds, almond paste and laced with five spice, and comforting, fluffy pork floss buns. Young’s Bakery been there for 24 years. It closed, sadly, in July.

September: Queen’s Rise

In May, The Spinoff reported that the three-year-old Queen’s Street collection of eateries was “hanging by a thread”. Most tenants had already left, with just a dumpling place remaining. Diners were instead bringing in their own lunch to use the space, which once housed a “laneway-style dining destination” full of internationally flavoured eateries like Lowbrow, Tokyo Loco Bowl and Jar Story. Now, it appears Queen’s Rise is closed for good. Its last Facebook post was in June, and whenever we’ve walked by the front doors lately, they’ve been shut tight.

September: Euro

Another day, another restaurant became a victim of Covid. Euro had stood the test of time for 22 years, but “the ongoing challenges caused by the Covid-19 pandemic over the past 18 months have meant that it is no longer sustainable to reopen, despite doing everything in our power to do so,” read the announcement. Euro had recently had a revamp, with a new menu and sharing plates introduced. It even earned a rave review from Jesse Mulligan for a tasting menu that included “the best lamb dish I’ve ever eaten”. That review ended with the line: “I want to go back to Euro.”

September: Skyworld’s entire food court

Renovation work appears to be underway at the Skyworld building on Queen Street. Image: Getty/Tina Tiller

Skyworld, the Metro Centre, the iMax building: whatever you want to call it, Auckland’s formerly thriving entertainment hub has been falling into disarray for years. This year is when it really started being felt, with every single food court tenant vacating the premises. Just one eatery remains in the whole building, the Chinese restaurant Yang Guo Fu located on the upper level near the rear entrance. Changes are afoot: builders have sealed off the food court, and appear to be doing work. Is this the rejuvenation the centre so desperately needs? Roll on 2022: we need to know.

October: Head High

You could almost hear the heavy sighs coming out of the local TV community. After just two seasons, the critically acclaimed and super-diverse TV show Head High, which followed a South Auckland rugby team, was cancelled by Three. For its creators, it felt like a sign that Three’s new owners Discovery might be choosing a different path, a theory proved correct by a new season announcement heavy on reality, factual and lifestyle content, and light on scripted local shows. Surely someone else can pick up Head High? TVNZ, we’re looking at you.

October: The New Zealand International Film Festival

Marten Rabarts resigned as the director of NZIFF after two years (Photo: Supplied; additional design by Tina Tiller

When a virus is spreading, a cinema is not the place to be. The New Zealand International Film Festival felt the full force of that, cancelling the Auckland leg of this year’s film festival and being forced to change dates in Hamilton and Christchurch, with social distancing enforced in places the festival was allowed to be held. Troubles continue, with director Marten Rabarts stepping down after just two years, and other film festivals – including January’s In the Shade – launching in its place. Will NZIFF return to Auckland? “It’s that audience support that will help us be here to fight another day,” trust chair Catherine Fitzgerald told The Spinoff.

November: La Cigale

When La Cigale announced it was closing on Instagram, the comments came thick and fast. “This breaks my heart. So many of your beautiful things are in my garden, they’ll always make me smile,” said one. That sentiment was echoed by many. For the past 24 years, the Parnell homewares store and cafe has been a haven to many wanting Euro-centric furniture, clothes, books and food. Now, everything’s on sale and the business will close “early next year”. Will the famed French markets on a Saturday continue? “We’re not sure if and when…” the Instagram post said

November: Paradise buffet

That’s right: build-your-own plates of korma, dahl and biriyani are no more. Paradise’s legendary buffet service is over, all thanks to delta. “It was a painful decision but a necessary one because if we had just one case of coronavirus spreading from the buffet, our entire brand and all our other outlets will be damaged,” Paradise owner Salah Mohammed told NZ Herald. Fans can still order their favourite dishes online, or dine in the restaurant just around the corner.

December: Mt Albert farmers market

The veges were fresh, the meat was cheap, the sourdough was warm and the coffee was hot. What happened to Mt Albert’s Saturday morning ritual in the taco car park? Under new delta protocols, it just didn’t work. “It’s far from an ideal situation but it’s a farewell not a goodbye,” a Facebook post from earlier this month read. “We hope to be back in 2022 with a bigger and better location. Watch this space.”

Keep going!