The Ultimate in Pop-Up Restaurants: Waiheke Island Yacht Club Coming to Pier 29

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One of the savory courses (hapuka, smoked agria, serrano, pea, and hen’s yolk) at Clooney (check out the yolk on that egg!). Photo courtesy of Clooney.

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One of the desserts at Clooney (Valhrona, cherry, and sorrel). Photo courtesy of Clooney.

During my trip to New Zealand, I had the pleasure of making my way through all the appetizers at Clooney in Auckland, a very chic and contemporary restaurant from restaurateur Tony Stewart (he is also behind The Hamptons in Auckland). At the time, he told me he had a pop-up, New Zealand-inspired restaurant and bar project that was going to open in San Francisco for the America’s Cup. After waiting on some finalized details, I can finally spill the beans on ~WAIHEKE ISLAND YACHT CLUB~, opening Thursday July 4th on Pier 29.

First, I need to explain Waiheke Island a bit. It’s an island off that is a short ferry ride away from Auckland. And let me tell you, it’s the picture of dreamy. It has wineries, gorgeous beaches, winding roads, delicious food, and a wonderful easy-breezy vibe. I was so sorry I was only there for the day—I was ready to just show up with my toothbrush and move there. (You can peek at some images—and stories—from my friend Nathan Branch in his blog post here and his fantastic photos here.)

Tony Stewart is going to be re-creating the relaxed, unpretentious, and comfortable feeling of Waiheke in San Francisco, along with bringing the progressive New Zealand cuisine style (and some ingredients—including Silvers Fern Farm’s SILERE merino lamb) that his projects are known for. There will be a four-course menu (with choices) each evening, plus two-, three-, and four-course menus at lunch; many of these dishes are also available on the bar menu, so you can just swing by for a drink and a bite as well. Look for brunch to launch in August.

His culinary team includes head chef Hayden McMillen (TriBeCa, Vinnie’s, Huka Lodge, Meredith’s, The French Café), who is known for an innovative style that is built around seasonality and purity of flavor. His sous chef is local boy Nicholas Patchen (Boulevard, Ritz-Carlton Half Moon Bay, Spruce, Campton Place, and All Spice in San Mateo). The specialized menu will have a modern/contemporary sensibility, intersecting with local ingredients.

The stylish yet laid-back space is going to feature many design elements from New Zealand, including slabs of macrocarpa cypress polished by hand, American white oak furniture that was handcrafted in New Zealand by Douglas and Bec, and even the pottery was brought over. Stewart has been working with architecture/design firms Sutro Architects (local) and Fearon Hay Architects (New Zealand) on the project. (For those of you into floorplans, you can check it out here.) The restaurant seats 85, plus 12 at the chef’s counter and 20 at the bar.

The bar is going to be a highlight of the experience, made in New Zealand. There will be craft beer from brewer Moa, and sommelier Geeling Ng will be handling the wines and pairings (although don’t expect New Zealand wines—due to some contractual obligations with America’s Cup, the wines will be from Napa Valley). There will also be a cocktail list conceived by Clooney’s bar manager, Needham Woodward.

The stadium (in America’s Cup Village) is just next door and will feature more than 30 live music concerts (Sting performed there last week), so it’s a convenient place to grab a bite before a show as well. Even though the America’s Cup 2013 finals will wrap in late September, Waiheke Island Yacht Club will stay open through December 31st. Am very much looking forward to experiencing this unique Kiwi import!