[Photographs: Todd Eyre]
It started as a popup restaurant run by, yes, a group of friends who painted on Sundays. I liked it from the start – the murals on the walls, the hand-written menus, the hand-cut chips. It was one of a wave of post-recession bistros that popped up all over the city. It was mad cap, slightly slapdash – you felt like you’d wandered into someone’s slightly unhinged dinner party.
It’s still quirky, only these days there is really good service – by way of owner Esther Lamb and Nick Pound and most especially, from James Kirkwood’s superb wine knowledge: just tell him what you like and how much you want to spend. And the food has evolved since they hired a new head chef about a year ago – it was home style, now it’s rustically sophisticated. I have dreams about the duck confit with white beans and pickled cabbage ($34) and recently I ate the slow-roasted pork belly with celeriac chips and black pudding ($34).
And yet. It is still Sunday Painters. It is offbeat, warm. It isn’t corporatised or chasing a target market in a city that has a lot of that these days. There are no industrial light fittings. It works equally well for a first date or a boozy catchup with friends in from out of town. May it last a long time yet. SFG
HOURS Open seven nights for dinner and Friday for lunch
ADDRESS 185 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, ph 360-2001. sundaypainters.co.nz
IMPORTANT DETAILS The private room upstairs is a minor triumph: a big airy room with a vintage record player and a stack of records for your own private party.