Setting up a café in a building with as much history and significance to the community as Lopdell House in west Auckland’s Titirangi was always going to be a challenge. Deco Eatery opened its doors in March 2015 and since then owner Alex Isik has heard many stories from locals about what the building means to them. “Lots of customers share their memories of this building with me. I was speaking to a 90-year-old who told me that when he was six years old, his parents brought him to stay here when it was Hotel Titirangi in 1931. He thanked me for bringing that buzz back to the building.”
As well as a hotel, Lopdell House was also a school for the deaf, a teacher’s residential centre, an art gallery and its roof terrace has played host to many a wedding. Alex had this history in mind when devising Deco, its name paying homage to the art once housed within its walls. “I wanted the community to be proud of this restaurant and for Titirangi to have a place to call its own. Everything had to be boutique, from the coffee to the cutlery. It feels like a very special site.”
Alex and his wife Nigar Ivgen, who are originally from Turkey, moved to New Zealand 15 years ago. He tells of his first job as a dishwasher while he learned enough English to work as a chef. Soon after that Alex, Nigar and a partner started their own business, which eventually spawned the Mozaik café chain, of which there are now 13 throughout Auckland and Hamilton and two Casablanca Cafe & Bars. Point Chevalier restaurant Nomad was their next venture, followed quickly by Deco, as Alex lives and breathes new ideas. “I love opening new places but I wanted Deco to have a completely different feeling to anything I’d done before.”
Alex and Nigar worked with Justin Roderique and Nik Rush from Pennant & Triumph on the design, which kept the original structure of the building intact with a few modifications. The kitchen opens onto the main dining area, where the Spanish mission-style archway windows remain, framing the greenery outside. Tucked around the corner is the wine bar and there are more tables on the street side, perfect for a morning coffee. The gallery-white walls are punctuated by turquoise shutters and a scattering of teal cushions, and blonde wood tables and chairs lend warmth and light.
Alex has thought about every detail, with gorgeous tiles brought over from Spain, crockery and cutlery from England and copper basins and silver water jugs from Turkey. “We really wanted the space to be homely. Turquoise and blue reminds me of home and we want people to feel relaxed and at home when they’re here.”
The kitchen and its food are another extension of Alex’s home, with his nephew David Kaya on board as head chef and his sister Feriza Isik the kitchen manager. “Feriza has been with me for nine years. She cooks dishes that remind me of our mum and our homeland.” Deco’s food is “Turkish classics with a Kiwi twist”. For breakfast Alex recommends menemen, a dish of sautéed tomato, capsicum, onion and eggs, served with Turkish bread. Alongside, a must, is Deco’s cold-brew coffee, which is brewed and bottled onsite. One customer has been known to take home a dozen bottles at a time. For lunch, Alex’s favourite dish is dolma, which is capsicum stuffed with rice, pine nuts, lamb and labneh. “My mum used to make me dolma when I was little and now my sister is making the same thing. I like that.”
Deco remains open from 7am until dinner service and operates 365 days of the year. “Even if it’s Christmas, people still need coffee,” says Alex. “Breakfast is busy, lunch is busy and afternoons are definitely busy.” Locals can drop in on the restaurant’s off-hours for a glass of wine at the wine bar, where sliding windows open the space up to the leafy-green street and where views of the Manukau harbour are visible beyond. “It’s the best spot in the place,” smiles Alex.
Deco Eatery, Lopdell House, 418 Titirangi Road, Titirangi, Auckland.