Orleans, 48 Customs St East, Britomart, Auckland, open six days from 11.30am-late (Sunday trading starts October 27), ph (09) 309 5854, www.orleans.co.nz

If I hadn't known in advance what kind of a theme Orleans had, I would have guessed long before I saw it.

Approaching Roukai Lane from the Britomart end, the first thing I heard was the moaning of a man in extreme agony.

Luckily, it was a bluesman doing the groaning and the music was on tape, but I have to admit the wailing had me worried for a moment.

Orleans is a new development, taking up the space that used to include Agents & Merchants and District Dining. It has a bigger area and a revamped theme and menu so looks set to become a popular haunt.


The decor is excellent, with plenty of distressed timber, wrought iron and the sort of simple furniture you know cost a fortune. Dark and intimate, it's an ideal place for a cosy encounter, perhaps, although maybe that was just the fact that blues had given way to some smoky jazz on the sound system.

The first thing I noticed was the beer selection. Or rather, the almost complete lack of beer selection. In a brave move, Orleans has decided to swim against the prevailing tide of multiple taps and has only two beers on tap - Tiger and its own Orleans Lager, a mild, creamy lager that's refreshing enough to go with most of the menu.

The wine list is another story, however, with thoughtful selections that cover most bases and even manages to include some American wine. And, as you'd expect from the people who brought you Racket bar, the cocktail and spirit selections are impressive, particularly the sheer volume of whisky.

The food will be a big attraction, too. It features plenty of small plates and Cajun classics, all available at a gratifyingly affordable price. In fact, Orleans would be one of the most affordable places to drink in the Britomart precinct, which is another point in its favour.

Couple all that with smart, friendly service and a lovely clean atmosphere and I reckon you've got a winner in the making. I'll be interested to see if I can even get in the door when I come to revisit Orleans in six months' time. I get the feeling it's going to be busy.