• The Stanley Avenue team, from left: Alok Vasanth, Matt Aitchison, Kathryn Aitchison, Lesley and Bruce Baillie outside their new bar and eatery.

Stanley Avenue proving popular

The Channel Mag team loves seeing our area change and evolve to enhance our local lifestyles. One area that has changed in recent times is the commercial enclave on the corner of Stanley Ave, just up the hill from Milford. The opening, in early September, of a wonderful new neighbourhood bistro – Stanley Avenue Wine Bar & Bistro – has added further vibrancy to the area. Channel’s Aidan Bennett went along to experience this new ‘local’ during December.

For those who embraced Stanley’s Café from the time it opened in 2012, Lesley Baillie will be a familiar face. Lesley, along with Lynley and Christine, opened the café on the corner site – that was previously a second hand appliance shop – developing it into one of the Shore’s much-loved cafés. It still is, despite them selling the café after a few years.

Now Lesley and Bruce Baillie have teamed up with Kathryn Aitchison – another very familiar face from Stanley’s Café – and her brother Matthew, to open Stanley Avenue Wine Bar on the opposite corner. This is a modern European wine bar and bistro that takes its DNA from London and Melbourne. It has made an impact early on, with Mindfood naming it in their ‘top nine bars’ in Auckland and Denizen selecting it in it’s ‘top 20 openings’ for 2020.
“Our aim is that Stanley Avenue is a relaxed wine bar and bistro where people can come and enjoy a light snack or sophisticated meal paired with an interesting wine offering,” says Lesley. “We aim to bring the taste of the best casual bistros from around the world to our own local neighbourhood. We love wine and food and our inspiration has come from experiencing eateries all over the world. We want this to be where you will love to catch up with friends, family and colleagues.”
Matt Aitchison is the manager of Stanley Avenue. He has had a long career in the restaurant industry, training as a sommelier. Matt has multiple hospitality industry awards and has run some of Auckland’s most impressive restaurants – including The French Café, Masu and Cassia. He has a keen interest in hospitality – particularly hand-selecting wines to complement talented chefs' menus.
“With Matt being a sommelier we pride ourselves on having great wines,” adds Lesley. “Matt has hand-selected a wine list including the best local, imported and aged wines. We also offer craft beer and spirits, plus an interesting selection of non-alcoholic drinks.”
Not to be out done by her brother, assistant manager Kathryn Aitchison also has considerable hospo experience, having managed several ventures on the Shore, including The Commons, Little and Friday, and more recently Stanley’s Café.
Lesley, Bruce, Matt and Kathryn, all local residents, have all played a part in the site being totally transformed into a classy restaurant that locals already love. It is hard to recognise it as the Hunts Fishing shop of just a few years ago. They have been helped by Etch Architects and Fitout Solutions. Stanely Avenue can seat 45 people, there are lovely bathrooms and another feature is the private dining room, great for groups of up to 10 people. It’s already proving very popular.
Head Chef is Alok Vasanth who leads the creative process of menu design, with signature dishes as well as seasonal changes and specials. Alok worked at some of the leading restaurants in Melbourne including Tonka with Adam d'Silva and The Roving Marrow with Hayden McMillan. Prior to joining Stanley Avenue he had just finished a season at The Tasting Shed in Kumeu, having previously gained experience at Dine by Peter Gordon, Kermadec with Peter Thornley, and multi award-winning Cassia with Sid Sahrawat. Alok is passionate about using local, seasonal and ethically sourced ingredients. Taking influence from both his European and Asian training and heritage; his creativity introduces a refined take on nostalgic flavours.
The evening we went in to experience Stanley Avenue was their final day for 2020. I drive past often, delighting in how busy the new establishment has become. It was time to find out why. The four of us had different desires for our early evening meal and the menu was perfect for this. Consisting of fine cheese, interesting light bites and small plates, as well as more substantial, classic bistro style mains for those who want to stay the evening.
We started with some snacks to share – sourdough with cultured butter, oysters, and pork croquettes. Tthose not so hungry then decided on two dishes from the entrée menu as mains. The hungrier chose the Black Tea Half Chicken (that was me), and the Butcher's Steak. At $32 and $34 respectively they were great value. The Black Tea Half Chicken, one of Alok's signature dishes was great; I loved it. It is not a big menu but there are choices for all, with seven snack options, four entrées, four mains, four sides (we chose the parmesan fries and red cabbage options) and four desserts.
Stanley Avenue has a comprehensive wine list as well as cocktails, beer and other options. I had a Hallertau Pale Ale while others enjoyed a glass or two from the wine list. Our Pinot Gris drinker opted for a Kumeu River; the steak eater, a Puriri Hills Mokoroa Merlot; and my good wife, a Felton Road Chardonnay. Matt tells us he always has over 100 wine options in stock.
If you haven’t been to Stanley Avenue, then you must. They have a great Valentine’s Day special coming up and also offer set menus for groups. They can do private functions and with their focus on wine will be hosting wine dinners with guest winemakers during 2021. It is all on their great website, so take a look.

Stanley Avenue Wine Bar & Bistro – 52 East Coast Road, Milford, Phone 09-410-0066 or email: hello@stanleyavenue.co.nz
Open Tuesday to Saturday: Tuesday & Wednesday  3pm to 10pm; Thursday 12pm to 10pm; Friday 12pm to 11pm; Saturday  12pm to 11pm. Closed Sunday and Monday.
Visit: www.stanleyavenue.co.nz

Photos by The Hospo Guy: www.thehospoguy.co.nz