The iconic stonehouse on Auckland's Tamaki Drive, where Air Force pilots once trained before going to serve in World War 1, has undergone a $3.3 million restoration complete with a new restaurant - just in time for the summer season.

The Mission Bay Pavilion, formerly known as the Mecca Stonehouse, had its official opening ceremony today.

The 157-year-old Melanesian Mission building, now owned by Heritage New Zealand, was first built in 1859, with basalt quarried on Rangitoto Island, originally as an Anglican school for Melanesian boys.

Melanesian Mission building was in need of seismic strengthening work and a refresh of its facade. Photo: Heritage New Zealand
Melanesian Mission building was in need of seismic strengthening work and a refresh of its facade. Photo: Heritage New Zealand

Over the years it was also used as a naval training base, a museum and from 1915 to the early 1920s it was the Walsh Brothers' flying school - the training ground for many pilots headed to WW1.

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Heritage New Zealand's director of organisational development Nicholas Chin said it was the organisation's hope that the public would learn a little more about this significant history following the property's recent facelift.

He hoped this, alongside the fact it had secured restaurant group Savor, the same one behind popular Auckland restaurants Ostro, Ebisu, Azabu and Seafarers, would draw the crowds in.

"We hope a lot more people will be using the premise, that alone should expose the history of the building."

The pavilion was built next to the Melanesia Mission building and is where the restaurant and kitchen is situated. Photo: Marcel Tromp
The pavilion was built next to the Melanesia Mission building and is where the restaurant and kitchen is situated. Photo: Marcel Tromp

The multi-million dollar project, which received funds from Foundation North, the Stout Trust and Vector, along with donations from Heritage New Zealand supporters, got under way in December last year and was completed in October.

Chin said looking at its fa├žade alone the months of work would not seem evident barring a tidier looking heritage wall and building front.

But he said extensive seismic strengthening work had been done, the building had been restored in line with its heritage requirements and a pavilion added for the new restaurant.

"The new pavilion building is a modern structure, so not competing with the old Melanesian Mission."

The inside of the Melanesian Mission building after the renovations. Photo: Marcel Tromp
The inside of the Melanesian Mission building after the renovations. Photo: Marcel Tromp

Chin said the interior of the stonehouse would largely be used for private functions and community events.

The pavilion restaurant had a soft opening late October, before the official opening ceremony today which was presided by the Archbishop of Melanesia, George Angus Takeli, and a number of other official dignitaries.

The Mission Bay Pavilion, as it has been renamed, promised to give "Aucklanders access to a true beachfront escape for lunch and dinner".

Its menu shows a range of seafood, meat and some vegetarian options in a configuration of small and larger platters ranging from $14 for some fish croquettes, to $72 for a large lamb shoulder platter.

The Mission Bay Pavilion had its official opening to the public today. Photo: Marcel Tromp
The Mission Bay Pavilion had its official opening to the public today. Photo: Marcel Tromp

In the weeks to come it has also promised to offer visitors the chance to buy fish and chips and icecream they can take to enjoy on the beach.

It's too early to tell how the public will take to the new restaurant, with limited reviews on a couple of restaurant review sites indicating a few teething issues, but Chin's hope is that it will become a go-to spot in Mission Bay.