Auckland's latest mall development, Westfield Newmarket, had its first stage opening yesterday. Josie Adams went to see what all the fuss was about.
OPINION: The long-awaited Westfield Newmarket, on the site of the iconic 277 and now the largest shopping centre in the country, has opened some of its eventual 200-plus doors. Consumers across the super city are flocking in droves to check out the freshly-renovated building and the 'deals' the 40 open stores are offering.
My first taste of Westfield Newmarket was a dark-varnished, cream-floored hallway echoing with Beyonce's best song, 'Blow'. Tiny ice-cream carts filled with packets of jellybeans lined a very wide hallway that leads to Coco Republic, which is an espresso bar? Furniture store? It's hard to say, but I don't feel comfortable going in. Where the hell is Factorie?
A DJ pumped out tunes from a silver box placed in the middle of the corridor. "I'm only here for the weekend," she said. Upstairs, an acoustic performer serenaded some empty garden chairs. A mocktail bar operated next the chairs, and a massive line led up to get to it, but a bouncer was making them wait for it. A bouncer, at a mocktail bar, was creating false demand for these empty seats that were in plain view of the queue.
I walked all three levels of the mall, side to side, looking for a redeeming feature. A Daiso, a JB Hi-Fi, a Higgins. None to be found. If you're interesting in Havaianas or a year-round Christmas decoration store, you're in luck. I was not. I found one store in the entire building that I would ever return to: Chemist Warehouse. A full shelf of the crème de la crème of celebrity-endorsed perfumes - Kim K, Michael Bublé, Delta Goodrem - sits next to a fridge full of gut flora. Giant tubs of bleach sit, waiting for a soul-starved mall-lover like me to mix them with Vitamin Water and have a chugalug.
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I bought some dental floss (30 percent off!) and got a free Chemist Warehouse drink bottle, which comes with a pill container built into its side.
Purchase complete, I began my hunt for the food court. The food court is central to every mall. There should be at least two: one with an Indian place serving the exact same bright orange butter chicken recipe as every other mall Indian place, a Mickey Ds, and a dodgy buffet with both fried rice and fries (both of which I will douse in sweet'n'sour). The other "food court" should consist of a Coffee Club and a Starbucks opposite each other at the end of a long hall.
These are the meeting places. These are cornerstones of the mall experience. How am I supposed to enjoy my trip to Cotton On without stopping for terrible sushi?
Well, no worries there - there's no Cotton On at the Newmarket Westfield. There's just a Dangerfield and a sectioned-off escalator that leads to 'Auckland's first Rooftop Dining' (this is bullshit, I eat on my roof all the time). The mysterious upstairs dining area will, allegedly, be home to eateries like White + Wong's, Island Gelato, and Bodrum Kitchen. I love a bit of Bodrum Kitchen, but only when I can see the algae-ridden waves of Mission Bay lapping at pink tourist feet.
This is a gastronomic farce. The whole mall is a farce. "This mall isn't for you," said my classist co-workers. "You don't belong in Newmarket." The other half and the sky bridge might one day redeem it, but for now...
Verdict: no stars, suggest Westfield consider tearing it down and starting again.