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Review: the new-look Auckland Empire

It’s the dawn of a new Empire.

This classic Auckland pub on Victoria Street West in the central city has seemingly thrown off the shackles of age, the burden of time, and emerged fully transformed, rebranded and ready to build on its more than 100 years of history.

Reopened after weeks of refurbishment, The Empire is cleaner, sleeker and flashier than ever before. Its most significant changes, however, are more than cosmetic – starting with the addition of a brand new café.

“The Press Room” represents a radical departure from the old Empire tavern, serving coffee and breakfast to Aucklanders on their way to work. Open from 7am, the café menu includes “the buttie of all butties” – Turkish bread packed full of bacon and cheese – and a range of pastries.

Meanwhile, The Empire’s “Garden Room” – already the very best thing about this venue – has been transformed with a retractable roof and a central fireplace for all-weather use. There is plenty of seating, all suitably plush, as well as TV screens for watching live sport.

The refurbishment is a slam dunk, then, with The Empire’s other assets – excellent food and service – remaining relatively unchanged since its new owners came on board in July last year. In fact, the menu is now rather more adventurous than it has been in the past.

The Empire still serves pizzas and bar snacks but now you can order small plates of soft shell crab and corn tostaditas, huge porterhouse steaks and New York strip, confit of duck leg and crushed apple cider doughnuts for dessert.

The building has changed hands many times since it was first established as a place for drinking in the 19th century but the building’s grand old Victorian visage has remained relatively unscathed. Like the recently refurbished Birdcage Hotel nearby, there is no reason why this well-loved Auckland institution couldn’t live to see another hundred years.

Check out the best garden bars in Auckland.

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  1. 137 Victoria Street West, Freemans Bay, Auckland City, Auckland

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