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Rise of the Empire


With entry via off-the-hook samurai sword door handles, you just know that what’s behind Empire’s spanking new doors is going to be on the razor’s edge of cool. Having mercilessly teased us for months with its classy exterior of grey stone, darkened windows and molten neon signage, last night’s VIP reveal could have registered on the Richter scale with the number of jaws hitting the floor as guests entered what is destined to become one of the city’s favourite after dark haunts.

Completing their trifecta of St Asaph Street hotspots, the team behind Baretta and The Cuban bring us a classic, regal taste of Japan with their scorching new entry into the hospo scene. Precision pimped with Geisha elegance, Empire is dark and cavernous with nods to Japanese refinement through well-appointed artefacts. A series of intimate booths flank the wall, jewelled with an inferno of glistening red tiles. Behind the street frontage towers a DJ booth and some seriously private dining spots perfect for sharing a late-night bottle or two of champers du jour Moet with good friends. An expansive bar rocking Shogun chic (you’ll know what we mean when you visit, c’mon, there has to be some surprises!) with an industrial edge pairs Japanese stalwart Asahi with a specially-brewed Empire IPA alongside a premium selection of Japanese whiskies, sakes and killer house cocktails.


Towards the rear a Yakitori grill brings the theatrics of the kitchen into the dining room where tender meats are roasted to perfection and, on opening night, a sushi chef prepared ocean fresh sushi from an exceptional specimen of salmon in a blinding display of flashing steel.


Upstairs presiding over proceedings is the serious swank of the VIP/function room, bathed in blue contour lighting and rocking minimalist chic and its own slick bar. Exclusive, brilliantly polished and bristling with edgy torque, Empire is Lexus’ near million-dollar LFA sports car of the Christchurch bar and restaurant scene.

It’s sugoi: buchi sugoi!

172 St Asaph Street
(03) 260 2608

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