Me and My Car: Chris Upton and his Lexus 450 Hybrid
CHRIS UPTON IS PROPRIETOR OF THE O’CONNELL ST BISTRO, WHICH REOPENED FRIDAY AFTER BEING DAMAGED BY FIRE
What do you drive?
It’s a 2010 dark grey automatic Lexus 450 Hybrid C. We leased it, from North Shore Toyota, for four years through the restaurant, and then decided to buy the car at the end of the lease term. After owning numerous Toyota vehicles, we moved to a Lexus 400h as we were attracted by the Hybrid technology and then, when the 450h became available we changed to that. It’s comfortable to drive, easy to maintain and has smart technology. We can pretty much travel in to the CBD along Tamaki Drive on battery power without using any petrol.
How does it have to fit in with your role at the restaurant?
The car needs to have sufficient space to transport stock and, on occasions, to cater in private homes. The large back seat/boot space comes in handy for transporting catering equipment.
Who else is allowed to drive your car?
My partner in business and life, Amanda. We both own the car, but travel separately as I work in the bistro and need to stay later in the evening and Amanda works from home. Our dog Koko, an SPCA special, is allowed in the car generally spending most of her time in the back seat with her head out the window.
And what do you always have in your car?
There’s usually a couple of bottles of wine (unopened) rolling around in the back.
How often do you clean your car?
Generally the car gets cleaned when we feel it needs it. If we travel overseas, we park the car at the airport and let the car valets give it a good clean inside.
A little red Fiat 126 nicknamed “Dino”. It used to bounce along the narrow Devon country roads at a great rate of knots. When I came to New Zealand in 1987, my first car here was a VW Beetle.
Your dream car?
Being British, it would have to be the new Aston Martin DB10. I had the opportunity to view the new DB10 and am hooked — but the dog wouldn’t be allowed.
Favourite car colour?
Metallic dark grey, as I think it’s a sharp look.
Who taught you to drive?
My dad, in the family car, when I was about 16. We motored around the village where we lived in Devon. I got my licence okay so he must have been a good teacher.
Do you prefer manual or automatic?
From a driving perspective, around Auckland I think automatic is the only way to go, but on the open road I enjoy a manual car.
Most memorable road trip?
Driving the Amalfi Coast from Naples to Positano in a convertible Peugeot, which we’d hired and then discovered the boot wasn’t big enough to fit our luggage which had to also occupy the back seat. I then managed to scrape the side of the car on one of the side barriers, got to Positano in one piece, then spent the next four days sick in bed and the car stayed in the hotel garage for the entire stay until we drove back to Naples.
If you could take any celebrity chef, in any car to any restaurant in the world?
I would take Mark Southon, our head chef at O’Connell Street Bistro, to all the restaurants that inspire him, in my DB10. I imagine the first restaurant would be Noma in Denmark.
Great day trip out of Auckland?
You can’t beat the west coast beaches, especially in winter in a good southwesterly.
What irritates you most about other drivers?
Other drivers’ assumptions that you know what they're thinking — especially when indicating.
Auckland’s congestion ... how would you help solve that?
I think if Auckland had a better public transport network; that would help. If you look to cities such as Melbourne, with the tram network, and Sydney, with the airport train link, they are able to move large volumes of people efficiently over large distances; but it’s going to need costly infrastructure to improve Auckland’s public transport network.
And finally ... how does it feel to be back in business?
We’ve used the opportunity to rethink some aspects of the business such as our ambience and decor, while still retaining the integrity of the previous incarnation.
Mark has developed an exciting new menu that showcases seasonal ingredients and reflects our passion for presenting modern European cuisine in innovative ways, however regulars will still recognise a few of our classic Bistro dishes.