17 May 2010

Wharfside Restaurant

Wharfside and Circa offer an exciting taste of what Wellington’s food and theatre scene can offer under one roof. Wharfside Restaurant, previously known as Circa Bistro & Bar, has provided a restaurant service at Circa Theatre for over 15 years. Set in the conservatory-like area of Circa Theatre overlooking the waterfront, Wharfside Restaurant has picturesque views of the harbour.


Dee Ryan and Martin Halliday

Q. What is your background?

A. I have been in the industry for almost 25 years now. I received the base of my experience at high quality establishments such as the Park Royal, and management of operations such as Arena Night Club. I have worked in many areas of hospitality including setting up of restaurants and bars for enterprises such as Hatters “the Diner”, and Arizona Bar. I have also owned my own hospitality based business, “The Function Co-ordinators” which supplied front-of-house operations and hireage equipment for events, corporate functions and weddings.

Q. Tell us about your involvement with Circa Theatre.

A. I have been with Circa since 1995, just after they moved to Taranaki Street, when I made the decision to set up a restaurant for their theatre patrons. I started with a very basic bistro style operation and have built it up over the years to be, I believe, a fine quality restaurant. I have had the added complication of having to run the restaurant in a way that not only provides a great dining experience but also takes into account the fact that a good percentage of our clientele are attending the theatre and therefore I needed to find the balance between the patrons feeling like they have had a relaxed and enjoyable dining experience and the efficiency needed to get them to the show on time.

Q. What are some of your most poignant memories from your time at Wharfside Restaurant?

A. I have had a lot of fun over the years, with some great after parties for the Chapman Tripp Awards. I’ve worked with some great people and it has been wonderful to watch them mature and move into other careers, a lot of them related to theatre. I’ve also enjoyed the relationship built with many of our regular clients and corporate sponsors over the years and the many varied and interesting functions we have had. My time as Father Christmas at a recent function was rather amusing.

Father Christmas at Circa

Q. Do you have a favourite Circa show?

A. I’ve enjoyed all the shows I’ve seen at Circa. I’m not really a thespian, but I find all the productions top notch and very professional. Some that have stood out for me are Grant Tilly’s one man show, C’mon Black, the Beat Girls stage show and Paul Jenden’s Fairy Stories. I have had a great time taking the kids to the Christmas Pantos, which are always vibrant and an interactive experience for the kids.

Q. What is your background?

A. I have only been involved in the hospitality industry for the last three years. Before that I worked for approximately 15 years for a Lower Hutt Law firm after which the opportunity arose for me to change my career path and I took a position as a Diversional Therapist in a local elderly care centre. This work was exceptionally rewarding but due to the fact that I relocated, I could not continue in this position because of the required travel. Martin needed someone to help manage the administration side of the restaurant and so I decided to get involved in the business at that stage.

Q. What is your role at Wharfside?

A. As I said, I became involved in what was then Circa Bistro and Bar about 3 years ago now. I was largely involved in the rebranding of Circa Bistro & Bar to Wharfside Restaurant including new brand logo, menus, signage, advertising and marketing. I am also involved in the day-to-day administration of the business. You may catch me helping out at the odd corporate function but most of my work is behind the scenes.

Q. What are some of your most poignant memories from your time at Wharfside Restaurant?

A. A great memory for me is when I dressed up as Snow White for a kids Christmas function for the pantomime. You can’t beat the feeling that the innocence and adoration of children gives you. They really believed I was Snow White and you could see their faces light up when they saw me and asked if they could have a photo or a hug.

Snow White and Cinderella at Circa

We ran the Breeze Radio Station Chardonnay Club at Wharfside for about 18 months which was a lot of fun for me and my friends. I was a member of the Chardonnay Club before it moved to Wharfside and felt extremely proud hearing the great comments from my friends and other Breeze members who really enjoyed the experience of having their club held at Wharfside.

Q. Do you have a favourite Circa Show?

A. Some of the shows I have seen at Circa have been exceptional and all are very professionally done. I especially enjoyed The 39 Steps, which was an amazingly funny and high energy production. It is a hard task to make an audience laugh nowadays but this show certainly had everyone in stitches. Another show I really enjoyed, was Who Wants to be 100? This really struck a chord for me after having worked in the elderly care sector. The actors were absolutely brilliant and performed flawlessly, the behaviours and mannerisms of elderly rest home patients.


Circa and Wharfside have been involved in planning and managing a variety of gatherings, including: Hairy MacLary book launch, corporate seminars and cocktail evenings, Breeze Chardonnay Club, Youth Group Evenings, and a kids-themed Christmas party with Cinderella and Snow White.

Corporate Event

Chardonnay Club


In a future blog, our chef will reveal one of his favourite recipes so you can have a go at preparing it home.


Wharfside offers a relaxed environment with first rate dining, excellent service and have an exclusively NZ wine list. We invite you to check out the Circa website under “Restaurant” to view all aspects of our operation including our menu, packages, corporate entertainment, tips, information on our Manager and Chef, and how to go about making a booking. We hope to see you there soon.

Book your next dinner or pre-theatre event at Wharfside Restaurant by calling 801-7996.

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