Superstar chef Jamie Oliver, who has been scouting for sites in Auckland, is said to be eyeing the heart of Queen St for his first restaurant here.
An industry insider said the British culinary expert, TV star and anti-childhood obesity campaigner had picked Queen's Rise in the ex-BNZ building at 125 Queen St, opposite the end of Shortland St, in the CBD.
Queen's Rise is to be a new restaurant fit-out of an existing commercial space, vacant for many years and on Queen St.
In April, Oliver was reported as saying he would open a branch in Auckland next year but he was said to be "tight-lipped" about the location.
He has ruled out the SkyCity casino precinct, saying he did not want to be associated with gambling.
Leah La Hood of Bayleys, who is leasing Queen's Rise, was also tight-lipped about whether a deal with Oliver had been struck.
"We do have a lease signed for an international restaurant downstairs but it does have a confidentiality clause," she said.
"I can check with the developer. It's going to be a shared environment. On the bottom floor is a large restaurant and retail and on the second floor there will be about 11 food outlets. It's not a food court, but European-style. On the third level there's a high-end gym and then a high-end childcare."
The international-style restaurant would be one level above the New World Metro, she said.
An insider with close links to the food sector said Oliver would open Jamie's Italian the long-vacant space to become Queen's Rise, an upmarket single-site dining precinct capable of catering for more than 500 people at once.
The eatery will be in the building, erected in 1867, which has a heritage facade facing Queen St.
Queen's Rise will be in the lower levels of the mirror glass tower, with its historic facade, previously the national headquarters of the BNZ, which has now shifted to the new building at 80 Queen St where Deloitte is also headquartered.
Oliver's first New Zealand restaurant will be in Wellington's Public Trust building on Lambton Quay.