Cocktails with a Splash of Mystery at Night Flower

OneMusic’s Melinda Clasper recently connected with Renwick Boon, co-owner and bartender of Wellington punch house, Night Flower, to talk about how he’s creating an intriguing atmosphere of mystery with his modern-day speak-easy.

Written by: Bex De Prospo

We’ve put a lot of ourselves into Night Flower, from the music, to the layout, to how it’s run, to how we set the lights every day. It’s like writing a piece of music. You want it to come from a place of honesty.

Renwick’s inspiration for the Wellington speak-easy-style bar came from his time at Crumpet, working with Adam Rickett (Head Chef who ended up at Euro in Auckland) on a degustation collaboration. “We had this great time [with Adam] where cocktails and food smashed together and were reimagined, and a chef and bartender could work on the same dish. We designed Night Flower around that idea.”

    Renwick Boon

Night Flower’s recent Felix Hospitality Awards win for the OneMusic-sponsored Outstanding Ambience & Design – their second win in the category – reflects Renwick’s commitment to a customer experience that centres on curiosity, discovery and connection. “We wanted to create lots of little nooks. The idea was intimate spaces and creating space through light, where people found that they had their own area and comfort, and that it wasn’t too crowded. I love the dark,” he laughs, “anything to hide the baggage under my eyes.”

Renwick’s passion for creating immersive hospitality spaces dates back to his experience designing Wellington cocktail bar, Crumpet, with Shaun Mallender, he says. “I would sit in Eddy Kennedy’s bar, Pollux, and design and imagine spaces, as you do. Eddy is a good mate of mine and, one day, he said he wanted to get out of Pollux and he offered it to me. I started talking him out of it because, selfishly, I love the place, but I said if he was still serious in a couple of months we could chat then. We did, and then Crumpet happened, which was magic.”

Once Crumpet was up and thriving (a co-lab of brothers Renwick and Ian Boon), Renwick found himself wanting something new, traded in his shares and returned to the drafting table. “I sat down with Shaun again, and Aaron Smith, and designed Night Flower. We designed it on the floor with tape – everything from the floor, to the pipes, to where the power points were going. That and [free design software programme] SketchUp saved us a fortune in architecture bills. We did it all on the smell of an oily rag and then an architect just had to sign it off.”

    Aaron Smith 

With his friend and new business partner, Gevan Dutton, Renwick took inspiration from Victorian England to create a truly unique space which embodied the identity of the founding team. “Shaun is a cabinet-maker by trade who specialises in hospitality. He did all the skilled stuff like the actual bar and putting together the front-of-house. Aaron, Gevan and I did the tiling. We kind of all got in there.” This hands-on approach saved them from some potentially expensive missteps, Renwick says, and taught them the importance of double-checking everything throughout the build. “I’m so lucky to have been surrounded by really talented people. Gevan has made everything happen; he’s done all the pushing. Aaron was here every day helping to build the place and now he manages it. I work behind the bar and I hired Aaron to be my boss. I can get a bit dreamy sometimes and he helps keep me in my place."

Without being mushy, I get that it’s all these amazing people who have come together and made this place, it’s crazy. That’s the lesson, I think, just surround yourself with people more talented than you are.

Music is central to the customer experience, Renwick says; he likens it to Night Flower’s doorman. “Music is so important. It sets the behaviour, the feeling and the mood. We’re almost all ex- or current musicians, so it’s pretty important to us. And the fact that musicians are getting something in their pocket [through licensing fees] is pretty important, too. It creates the space. It sets the mood; the expectation. I often find that when the music turns off in a place, I notice that something’s wrong. I may not be quite sure what it is, but I know the room has suddenly gone cold and I want to leave. And that’s because the music’s stopped.” Night Flower runs a daily playlist which, Renwick says, features a medley of different genres. “We really like people like Lucille Bogan. She was this wonderful blues and jazz singer with lyrics that could make a sailor blush, but she seemed to get away with it.”

Renwick refers to Night Flower’s staff as a “beautiful, assorted bunch of pirates. There are a lot of semi-reformed bogans behind the bar as well. They’re all unique and fantastic. It really does feel like home to me. It’s like you create it for your family and then, by extension, for the people who come here. Everybody that walks through the door is here because we like them. If we didn’t, they wouldn’t be here.”

We express ourselves through the light theme, the music, everything. We just really want to enjoy ourselves and put aroha into everyone’s life. It’s nice to have a place where you can just chill out and feel a bit sexy and mysterious.


Night Flower, Level 1/55 Ghuznee Street, Te Aro Wellington,

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