A new concept this year, the vision of artistic director Jonathan Bielski, Festival Playground is the downtown hub of the festival's goings on. This lively precinct occupying Silo Park has been designed by Angus Muir and is all about food, music, art and, of course, fun. Here, the food and drink offering has been carefully curated to capture the relaxed vibe for which Silo Park has become renowned. The Super Taste Canteen is putting on the biggest Kiwi barbie imaginable, where the performance hinges on cooking with fire and smoke over charcoal and hardwood. Marinated meats and tonnes of fresh vegetables are being cooked in a flash to juicy perfection, with rotisserie meats and a host of seasonal salads rounding out the offering.
The Playground is home to three bars where you can wet your whistle, with plenty of options from boozy to non-alcoholic to good strong coffee. There's a bar in the Super Taste Canteen, and another in the music arena that operates when there are performances on, plus there's the Rogue Sundowner Bar, which has a harbour bridge outlook and a rollicking list of Rogue Society cocktails.
IHEART RADIO FESTIVAL CLUB
In the Aotea precinct, existing bars have been given a makeover (also courtesy of Angus Muir, with a hand from fashion-and-food creative Kayla Jurlina), transforming into a personality-packed pop-up dining and drinking mecca, the iHeart Radio Festival Club. The look hinges on red-tinted retro, with lava lamps lolling in curious corners; it's a place for audiences and artists to hang out and relax.
Producing and directing the action here are ArtDego magic-makers Rebecca Smidt and Courteney Peters, and they've enlisted what Smidt calls "some of ArtDego's most talented alumni" to present punters with a multi-faceted experience.
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Kyle Street and Jordan MacDonald's Theatre Dining by Culprit is a lively express dining offering, offering diners two- or four-course menus, including dishes such as "Everything is Illuminated": local prosciutto, figs, Kapiti blue cheese, served on illuminated plates specially created by LED experts KKDC. Equally fast and fun is the line-up in the hawker food alley, with the likes of Judge Bao slinging sensationally tasty street eats.
Champion mixologist Laura Lopez of Golden Dawn leads a stellar cast at Red Bar, and she has tailored a cocktail menu that will bring everything into perfect harmony. Take her Khan's Dance, named for Akram Khan, choreographer of the English National Ballet's Giselle. Lopez has designed it to allude to the supernatural underworld from which Giselle returns - tequila, cointreau, passionfruit, coconut, lime and chia seeds. With that, we'll raise a toast to this year's very grown up, yet feisty and fun, line-up of edible delights at the Auckland Arts Festival.