The Hotel Britomart – a sophisticated stay in Auckland’s place-to-be Britomart precinct – is killing it with kindness. It’s the first five-green-star hotel in New Zealand and every detail, from its level of greenhouse-gas emissions to the paint hues to the carbon-zero water in the minibar, has been examined for its Earth-friendliness. But they haven’t skimped on style: we love the mix of quirky new build and heritage Buckland building (where some suites and elegant event spaces are housed); clean-lined modernism and ruggedly exposed brick; and all the thoughtful details (the staff’s linen Mavis & Osborn uniforms, handcrafted modern chandeliers, striking Mark.Antonia floral arrangements). The hotel is a testament to Kiwi craft, with locally made ceramics, Māori artwork and kauri-wood furnishings, successfully showcasing that sustainability is a beautiful thing.
11am. Late check-out until 1pm is NZ$60. Earliest check-in, 2pm.
Double rooms from £184.19 (NZ$377), including tax at 15 per cent.
Rates don’t usually include breakfast (AU$25 for a Continental spread; à la carte choices available from AU$10), buk bike hire is free and you get a city guide too.
Behind its Mondrian-esque façade of mismatched square windows, the hotel has been beautifully conceived, with sensitivity to both the environment and indigenous culture. The first thing that greets you in the lobby is part-Māori artist Shane Cotton’s ‘Long Burning Flame, Look to Whiria’ painting depicting a Ngāpuhi legend, and more of his work hangs alongside that of Māori artist Ralph Hotere. Ikebana-style floral arrangements by Mark.Antonia use New Zealand foliage and selections of books about the locale were sourced from Te Papa Press and Massey University Press. And, special extras can be added to your room on request, say a charcuterie plate, olives and wakame sourdough to snack on, or a bottle of Louis Roederer Brut Premier.
At the hotel
Lounges, wine library and tasting room, private dining room, gym, free bike hire, laundry, free WiFi throughout. In rooms: 49-inch Samsung TV with casting abilities, climate control, minibar, compostable slippers and organic toiletries from Sans(ceuticals). Guests staying in suites get a 55-inch TV with Samsung Reach casting, free minibar soft drinks, free access to the Libraries (the hotel’s suite of bars and private-dining spaces) when available, a free tour of Britomart, a free dry-aged fish plate with a glass each of the hotel’s own wine (served in Kingi), library of New Zealand books, and a turndown service.
Our favourite rooms
Social responsibility and style meet in these elegant modern rooms, all with ceramics by exciting native pot-throwers such as Elena Renker and Rachel Carter; reclaimed kauri timber finishes and doorknobs made of brass-dipped driftwood; custom sofas to curl up in; and beds large enough for throwing each other about, with snuggly organic linens. The only differentiating factor is the view, and those overlooking Waitemata Harbour are our preference. However, the Landing Suites – named for the vast vineyard and ongoing reforestation project in the Bay of Islands – are on another level (the 10th and top floor to be precise) and another building (a glass atrium atop the century-old Buckland Building next door). They all come with a host of extras (a glass of wine and tasting plate, local tour, use of the hotel’s private entertaining spaces, free soft drinks), but our favourites are Wairoa and Rangihoua for their vast terraces, complete with an alfresco fireplace.
No spa, but there’s a gym with state-of-the-art Technogym equipment.
Fill your suitcase with clothing by the most sustainable brands you own. Leave only footprints – although, not even those really.
Public areas are fully accessible for guests with mobility issues, and there are five specially adapted rooms.
Children may be the future, but this forward-thinking stay is really more of a grown-up space.
The hotel isn’t just green, it’s revolutionarily so. The first Five-Green-Star build, as awarded by the New Zealand Green Building Council, it’s at the vanguard of more sustainable, livable and healthier spaces. This means more than 90 per cent of its construction waste was reused or recycled and the building creates 50 per cent fewer greenhouse-gas emissions than one that meets the country’s minimum standard. Plus, 50 per cent of the mix water used for the concrete (delivered from suppliers nearby) was captured or reclaimed; timber is responsibly found; and 60 per cent of aggregate used in roading is recycled or recovered. Kingi restaurant champions fishermen and women who follow ocean-kind, long-lasting practices too (the menu gives a shout-out to whoever caught your dish). But it’s not just the big swings: little life-improving touches include eco-friendly paints and finishes, plastic reduction, 100 per cent organic cotton sheets, wholly organic staff uniforms by Mavis & Osborne, and carbon-zero Antipodes water and compostable slippers in rooms.
The table in the Wine Library, carved out of native kauri wood with a live edge and set below a handcrafted chandelier that looks like shards of opal, is maybe the most desirable dining space.
Eco-chic: don organic cottons and linens, and vintage or Fairtrade pieces.
Kingi (short for ‘kingfish’) restaurant hails a sea change in how fish is sourced and served. Restaurateurs and raconteurs Tom Hishon and Josh Helm (formerly of Orphans Kitchen) want to revolutionise the way New Zealand’s fisheries operate, choosing local suppliers who don’t over-fish, contribute to seabed degradation or have wasteful by-catch. These are the kind of chefs whose words carry weight – they’ve been known to lug bull kelp from a South Island beach in their hand luggage for a vegetarian dinner, keep bees on their rooftop and frequently forage, muck in at South African vineyards and forge a connection with New Zealand’s last fishing community in the Chatham Islands, who keep the menu in blue cod and other delicacies. In fact, each supplier gets a shout out and if you’d like to learn more about how your fish arrived on your plate, the staff will happily bend your ears. So, what is on your plate? Well, perhaps oysters from Waiheke Island, hot-smoked kahawai from Little Barrier Island, yellow-belly flounder with curry leaves from Kaipara Harbour, and that blue cod fried in buttermilk. And, while the wine list isn’t wholly local, New Zealand is very well represented. Private dinners for up to eight with Tom Hishon can be arranged in the atmospheric Chef’s Library and on Sundays, a four-course ‘taste of Kingi’ menu is served. And, when they’re not shaking up the culinary scene, the chefs are whipping up exciting brunches with the likes of smoked fish and pickled egg on a sprouted quinoa loaf, sweet-potato tortilla with mole sauce, and mushroom bolognese and buffalo curd on sourdough.
When Kingi co-founder Josh Helm went walkabout after his studies, he found himself working on a vineyard in South Africa, which was his first step towards wine-list grape-ness. At Kingi, he’s kept things closer to home, with plentiful picks from Kiwi appellations such as Marlborough or Hawke’s Bay, with a few forays into European terroir. There’s also craft brews from Riverhead and Waipu, and a short edit of simple yet elegant cocktails. Aperitivo ‘hour’ runs from 4pm to 6pm every day, when a glass of house wine, Longboard lager from MacLeod’s brewery or a cocktail are NZ$15 and under. Drinks can be taken in the lobby lounge or in Kingi, but if you’re staying in one of the Landing Suites, you’ll have access to the Lounge – a brick-walled space, hung with artwork by Ralph Hotere and Shane Cotton with cosy sofas and an intimate car space. Or, book a tasting in the Wine Library where the walls are lined with bottles and up to 12 guests can gather round the kauri-wood table and compare notes under a spectacular handcrafted chandelier.
For breakfast, which runs from 7am to 11am (from 8am on weekends), the Continental buffet is served Friday to Sunday; the rest of the week à la carte is available. Kingi’s lunch and dinner menu is served from 12 noon till late.
You can order food to your room from the restaurant menu 24 hours a day.
The Hotel Britomart is part of the action-packed nine-block Britomart shopping and dining precinct, set by downtown Auckland’s waterfront, with spectacular views of Waitemata Harbour and the North Shore.
Auckland Airport is just a 20-minute drive from the hotel; flights arrive direct from major cities across New Zealand, Australia and Asia. From further afield your flight will likely involve a stopover. The hotel’s concierge can help to arrange transfers to the hotel (around NZ$80 one way), or the SkyBus runs to the CBD, very close to the hotel, in 40 minutes.
As luck would have it, Auckland’s major transport hub, Britomart Station, is practically on your doorstep. It’s the terminus for all four inner-city lines for easy exploration, and if you’re arriving from Wellington, this is where you’ll arrive after the 10-hour journey.
Ditch the wheels while you’re in Auckland, where public transport is fairly reliable, parking is spare and can be expensive, and cycle routes are scenic. Then hire one as you leave to explore New Zealand’s wealth of nature. If the city’s on the tail-end of a road trip, valet parking is available at the hotel for AU$55 a room, each night, or you can self-park at the Britomart Carpark, just two blocks from the hotel (the entry is on Britomart Place) for around AU$110 a day.
Ferries run to the port from wine-washed Waiheke Island (about a 50-minute journey) or Devenport (a 15-minute journey).
Worth getting out of bed for
The Britomart neighbourhood is named after the British navy gunship that first carried out a survey of Waitematā Harbour in 1841. It’s fair to say the neighbourhood has changed drastically over the years, especially during the last decade or so as derelict warehouses have been restored and repurposed and gritty laneways cleared up and brightened with plants. And, the nine-block neighbourhood has become an expansive community hub with more than 65 boutiques, wellness centres, bars and restaurants. The hotel is at the centre of it all, so be prepared to give in to temptation: pick up lamb’s wool blankets and sculptural candles at Ama La Vita; bold sustainable dresses from Maggie Marilyn; sunnies with character from Karen Walker; look-at-me leather goods from Deadly Ponies; sharp bespoke suits from RJB Design; and luxe curios and cult scents at World – with perhaps a little refresh at the Face Space spa to chase. If that’s not enough to quell your cash-splashing needs, Commercial Bay next door has more than 120 shops and eateries. For something with a bit more substance, head to Queens Wharf to contemplate Michael Parekōwhai’s large-scale, neon-lit art installation The Lighthouse / Tū Whenua-a-Kura, which addresses wide-ranging issues such as colonialism’s legacy and the country’s housing shortage. And stroll back in time along Princes Street, where there are merchant houses from the late 1800s, Roy Lippincott’s 1926 Old Arts Building and other elegant monuments. Getting out and about in the city brings huge rewards too – the hotel can advise on walking, running and cycling routes (and lend you a bike free of charge). Get your pulse pumping with a vertiginous jog up Mount Eden (Maungawhau) for the city-wide views on top; walk through native bush and past palm-lined Lover’s Walk to see the War Memorial Museum in the Auckland Domain; or get acquainted with the city on a spin through the Cycle Loop, along hot-pink Lightpath Te Ara I Whiti (you’ll even find a bottle-filling station along the way). And there are fascinating neighbourhoods to explore around the hotel; along Karangahape Road, you’ll find champion of emerging creatives Artspace Aotearoa and a crop of new Pacific artists at Tautai. Pick up art tomes and zines at Strange Goods and indie vinyl at Flying Out Records. Suburb Ponsonby has expansive green space Western Park, which has a playground and engaging sculptures, and shops where you can pick up simple yet beautiful homewares (Everyday Needs) and radical chick-lit at the Women’s Bookshop. But first, get your mitts on a vegan ice cream sandwich at Duck Island. And in Devonport, catch an indie flick at Art Deco theatre, the Vic. All this exploring is thirsty work, so hop on the 40-minute ferry to Waiheke Island and you can drink to your heart’s content – this wine haven has many vineyards across its 92 square kilometres. You could spend days swilling and sipping, but good places to start this oenophile odyssey are Man O’ War, whose syrahs and chardonnays go down easy, and Kennedy Point, the only certified organic vineyard on the island. When you start to feel tipsy, head to Palm Beach to snooze it off on the sand (note: next-door Little Palm is clothes-optional, so best for if you really overdo it).
Britomart’s culinary offerings skip blithely from country to country and run from casual to fine. You could eat for days on end here, but as time is limited, here are some of our favourites. Mr Morris ticks all the ethical-eating boxes (local, sustainable, seasonal…), so dining here is the most delicious way to safeguard the Earth. Get stuck into cheddar pão with honey and goat curd, quail with mandarin and onion or white chocolate with kiwi and elderflower. Alma’s Andalusian cuisine is elegantly plated, and arrives flamed, charred or smouldering from fire cooking. In the Spanish tiled space, order up hogget empanadas, vermouth-splashed oysters, and harissa-spiked ceviche, with a pairing from the gin list or Spanish varietals. Sushi in sultry surrounds is what Japanese eatery Ebisu brings to the table, alongside dishes such as salmon with caramelised grapefruit and miso mascarpone and soft-shelled crab with wasabi tartare and orange ponzu. The food at Ostro Bistro is very good indeed, with crayfish brioche sandwiches with a slick of lemon curd, garlicky lobster and snapper pie and Trevally ceviche with lime and coconut cream – but, the view is even more impressive. Through window walls, Waitemata Harbour and the North Shore put on an engaging panorama that’s best seen after dark. And Cafe Hanoi brings vivid Vietnamese flavours to Britomart, with wagyu drizzled in caramelised fish sauce, octopus with kaffir lime and green tea and red bean strudel.
If you’re keen on the action in Kingi restaurant, try chef Tom Hishon’s other venture Daily Bread, a bakery where he proves himself a dab hand at carbs too. Croissants crafted from hundreds of layers of butter and dough, artisan sourdough loaves, cardamom buns and other pastries are the café’s bread and butter – ahem – but they ace the savouries too, with lunchables such as a roasted cauliflower sandwich with hummus, feijoa chutney and dukkah, and a baguette filled with cinnamon, clove and mustard glazed ham and cheese. La Petite Fourchette, owned by a French-Kiwi couple, is for bon vivants who know that joy comes encased in choux. There are Paris brests, mille-feuilles, madeleines, caneles and some Pacific takes on pâtissière. This is the only one of their three locations that offers brunch too, so you can rise and shine to galettes, pain-perdu brioche and oeufs any-way.
Italian-inspired Bar Non Solo brings a bit of ‘the boot’ to Auckland, piggy-backing off the success of the beloved Non Solo Pizza. Slide into one of the intimate olive-green-leather banquettes or cluster around a high table for rounds of negroni variants (our favourite might be the punchy mezcalito take) and small bites of salumi and crostini or slices of pizza. Caretaker’s entrance might feel dive-y, but within there’s a well-groomed space inspired by classic New York cocktail lounges. Drinks replete with juices squeezed onsite and hand-carved ice showcase the mixologists’ skills – we rather like the Bees’ Knees with gin honey and lemon or the Handyman, with rum, vermouth, chocolate liqueur and Campari. If the objets and art books in Strange Goods appeal, then you might be interested to know that the owner (and head of publishing house Dead Bird Books) also runs Soap Dancehall, a space that fills a gap between sit-down bars and dance-till-dawn clubs. In between boogieing sip on Korean beers and organic wines.
Let me introduce Britomart. What sounds like an emporium of patriotic merchandise is in fact one of central Auckland’s most glitteringly overhauled precincts, tucked into the CBD just east of the downtown ferry terminal.
The Hotel Britomart overlooks Takutai Square, alongside Tiffany and Chanel with a lobby that looks more concept store than hotel, lined with pale sofas and Mark.Antonia floral displays, shopfront-esque glass wall panels and staff dressed in Allbirds trainers and chic linen separates, plus till-like terminals for a stand-up check-in… [READ THE FULL REVIEW]