Fire may have damaged the interior of Al Brown's restaurant Depot, but its reputation remains intact.
Last night the popular Federal St eatery was crowned Metro Restaurant of the Year, even though it is closed because of a recent fire.
Brown spoke briefly and emotionally when accepting the award, thanking everyone for their outpouring of support after the Federal Street fire.
"This has really come out of left field. We're thrilled to be standing up here."
He praised the talent of the bistro's young chef, Kyle Street, who turned the praise back on his humble boss.
"He's a guy who fills me with self-belief... He does that to everybody he comes into contact with. He just makes us all so much better."
Brown's hordes of fans have something else to celebrate today too: they should be able to have a wine and oysters at Depot by this weekend, according to the celebrity chef, who said Depot planned to open again on Saturday.
Earlier, Brown said the secret of Depot's success was in its reinvention of the classic Kiwi bach as a restaurant, "a place where Kiwis feel best when they eat, drink and entertain".
"As New Zealanders, we are very good at informality - and Depot is about having fun and laughing and putting your elbows on the table."
• Depot takes out top Auckland eatery award
Metro magazine editor and judge Simon Wilson said of Depot: "The food is terrific, the service is outstanding and the atmosphere so exciting."
The fact that it was still the busiest place in town four years after it opened was testament to its excellence. Wilson said the judges were particularly pleased to award Depot a top accolade, given the damage it suffered in the blaze.
"In fact, the judges had their final meeting on the same day as the fire. We didn't know about it when we made our decisions, but it does feel right to be able to say we have every faith they will bounce back as strongly as ever."
This is the second time Mr Brown's restaurant has taken the top spot - in 2012 Depot was named restaurant of the year, and in 2013 it won the award for best casual bistro.
This year Depot, known for its sliders and freshly shucked oysters, also won the best city bistro award.
Supreme award runner-up was chef Simon Wright's The French Cafe, which has won the top accolade five times since 2004.
The French Cafe also won for best fine dining spot and best service, and Wright was named best chef.
Wright was not at the event last night as he and his wife had just welcomed their second child.
The awards began in 2003 with categories such as "worst table", "worst noise pollution", "best courtyard" and "best loos".
In 2015, Auckland's finest dining, best chefs, top bistros and best destination dining were showcased. And with more than 200 cafes and restaurants opening in the city last year, according to the Restaurant Association, competition is fierce.
All 50 restaurants were represented at the awards evening tonight, with the who's who of Auckland's hospitality industry sitting at long tables with share plates, and amongst aircrafts hanging from the roof of the MOTAT Aviation Hall.
Other multiple award winners last night included restaurateurs of the year Mark Wallbank and Che Barrington - owners of MooChowChow, the Blue Breeze Inn and Woodpecker Hill. The Blue Breeze team also took home the people's choice best dish award for the restaurant's pork buns. Winners of each category were chosen from 50 finalists by a panel of judges.
- Additional reporting Nicky Park
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The Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year Awards 2015 Category Winners
The Metro Peugeot Restaurant of the Year
The French Café
The Peugeot People's Choice Award for Auckland's Favourite Dish
Winner: Pork buns, The Blue Breeze Inn
Best Fine Dining: The French Café
Co-runner up: Sidart
Co-runner up: The Grove
Best Smart Dining: Cocoro
Runner up: Clooney
Best City Bistro: Depot
Co-runner up: Coco's Cantina
Co-runner up: Ponsonby Road Bistro
Best Neighbourhood Restaurant: The Engine Room
Runner up: Cazador
Best Destination Restaurant: Poderi Crisci
Runner up: Casita Miro
Restaurateur of the Year: Che Barrington & Mark Wallbank, MooChowChow, The Blue Breeze Inn & Woodpecker Hill
Best Chef: Simon Wright, The French Café
Co-runner up: Ben Bayly, Baduzzi & The Grove
Co-runner up: Sid Sahrawat, Cassia and Sidart
Best Service: The French Café
Best Drinks Service: Cocoro
Co-runner up: Molten
Co-runner up: Ponsonby Road Bistro
Best New Restaurant: Woodpecker Hill
Best Shared Table: Ima
Best All Day Restaurant: Ortolana
Co-runner up: Odettes
Best Room: Odettes
Highly Commended: Woodpecker Hill
Best Renewal: Prego
Best Value for Money: Molten