A restaurant masquerading as a bar: Mason

Ice-cold beer, juicy natural wine and quality liquor accompanied by plates of extraordinarily delicious food in an ex-record shop in Newtown

Bar Mason Newtown Matt Hawkes owner chef




3 Wilson Street



Before Matt Hawkes was a chef, he worked in construction. There’s a parallel, he thinks between the two. Like construction, cooking is about honing skills and repetition. 

Matt’s long had a dream to open his own place. When he came back from working overseas, he had a small amount of money saved to open a place of his own with, but it became apparent it wasn’t enough. At that time, Matt was cheffing at Nikau Café in Civic Square, then owned by Kelda Hains and Paul Schrader.

Bar Mason Newtown interior bar
Bar Mason Newtown interior seating
Bar Mason Newtown jars of pickles preserves
Bar Mason interior wall menu and shelves of drinks and glasses

An opportunity arose to become a co-partner of Rita, and together the three of them went about creating one of Wellington’s popular and critically acclaimed eateries.

Three years later, Matt’s ideas for his own place were still percolating, and the time came to branch out on his own. He wanted a place that was a bit rowdier than Rita, with a small but regularly changing menu. A fun bar that also served substantial food. And that place is Bar Mason – a restaurant masquerading as a bar.

It’s a bar, so we’ll start by talking about the booze. There’s local ParrotDog beer on tap and a fridge full of cold ones, a line-up of New Zealand organic and natural wine available by the glass or bottle and a small list of classic cocktails.

To go alongside your bevvy, the food menu features an ever-changing line-up of small plates with a Middle Eastern and Mediterranean vibe. In late summertime you’ll get dishes like zucchini fries with za’atar and labneh, watermelon and feta salad and cardamom rice pudding with roasted strawberries. By following the seasons, the food inevitably ends up being just what you feel like – light and fresh in summer, complex and heartier in winter.


Bar Mason Newtown exterior

As well as taking inspiration from the seasons, Matt gets direction from his suppliers and growers, previous chefs he’s worked with, books he’s read and restaurants he’s eaten at, such as London’s Black Axe Mangal – a 20-seater which cranks ‘80s power rock and serves Turkish inspired food.

Those construction skills from his previous life have been put to good use at Bar Mason. Matt did much of the fit-out himself, turning the ex-record store into a warm and welcoming space. A raised wood-panelled bar and kitchen is at the heart of Bar Mason, with more bar seating along the window and a nod to the much-loved Death Ray Records left on the wall.

Bar Mason is friendly, laidback and for everyone – come as you are.

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