Sofitel raises the bar


The boss of Queenstown’s luxury Sofitel hotel believes his new French and New Zealand-inspired wine bar fills a niche in the local market.

Named after the year of the French Revolution and designed as a “revolutionary concept” for Queenstown, 1789 Wine & Jazz Lounge - fit out for almost $1.4 million – opened on the CBD hotel’s ground floor this week.

Vincent Macquet says the aim’s to create a sophisticated but affordable venue that differs from the resort’s “standard cookie-cutter” bars that offer “the same beers, the same food, the same music”.

Queenstown, he believes, has a lot of top restaurants, but where do you go afterwards, he asks, “where I can enjoy some music but still talk and be looked after but not have to pay $18 for a glass of wine like a lot of hotels do?”

Like the worldwide Sofitel hotel brand, which blends French culture with the host country’s culture, Macquet says 1789 has the best of French and NZ, including Central Otago, wines - 350-plus by the bottle and almost 70 by the glass.

The entry price point is $9 a glass - ”we want to be seen as a bar that is not only for our VIPs but we want to have a certain following from the local clientele as well”.

“We want the place to be not as strict as what hotels can be at times, and to be very much a playful, informal environment.”

With many grape varieties not usually offered in restaurants and bars, 1789 has flight tasters where you can taste three or four wines for free to help you choose.

The theme of the French Revolution carries through to the menu, featuring background street scenes from that time - “and even some blood” - along with the deep red carpet and dark-toned decor and the waiting staff’s old-style black and red uniforms.

Featuring a Steinway piano, the bar also offers live music on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays, and a food menu - including 18 tapas and raclette - that runs till at least 1am.

The bar’s entrance is not only through the main foyer but also via lower Brecon Street, which adds to that area as a hospitality precinct, Macquet says.

Adjoining 1789, Sofitel’s also opening the South Island’s first hotel executive lounge and a wedding/cocktail venue, Le Galerie, that can sit 70 for dinner.

The executive lounge, for premium hotel guests, is like an upscale Koru Lounge, Macquet says, offering complimentary snacks and drinks all day and night.