In conversation

In conversation

From walking through the door to the moment you pay the bill, wining and dining is all about the full experience. It’s a time spent with those near and dear to enjoy a meal and exchange stories with one another.

Welcoming in the new year, we had the pleasure of meeting Sophie Beaton, Front of House at Hugo’s Bistro - one of Auckland’s top eateries. Catching up with Sophie, we learnt more about her passion for hospitality and impressive career to date as well as how she came to work at Hugo’s.

Tell us a bit about your background and what brought you to where you are now.

I’m originally from Lancashire in the UK but my partner and I decided to travel in 2011 to Australia and New Zealand; we never moved back home! I remember going out for dinner in Melbourne to the lively Chin Chin and having my mind blown by what exceptional, fun dining could be like. This modern style of dining changed my perception of restaurants – how wonderful to enjoy dining as an experience, much like going to the theatre rather than just ‘dinner’.

When we moved to New Zealand I became passionate about studying wine whilst living in Central Otago. To be able to drink a wine where it’s grown with the people who made it is really something special.

Auckland has an amazing, diverse food scene and I couldn’t imagine settling anywhere else. I feel excited to be part of a growing city with so many opportunities.

Can you tell us a bit about how you came to work at Hugo’s Bistro?

I gained experience in a few different style restaurants from fast paced casual eatieries to fine dining before I figured out what style suited me best. Hugo’s is a bustling bistro with a casual yet refined feel. The interior is elegant but still makes you feel comfortable and very much at home. It’s wonderful being able to take the approachability of a bistro and apply the attention to detail I learnt through fine dining.

My partner Alfie is the head chef and we focus on seasonality and ethically-sourced ingredients with a frequently changing menu. It’s so important to us to know the people behind the products we’re using whether its winemakers, fisherman or the lady that hand makes our almond milk. Working with my partner means we can support and inspire one another to achieve our common goals. It’s so exciting when Alfie is able to get his hands on some special produce and I know I’ve got the perfect wine to match.

The ultimate wining and dining experience goes beyond just food, what are your thoughts around delivering the best experience for diners?

Service plays a huge role, possibly even more so than the food sometimes. You want to walk away from a restaurant itching to go back and re live the experience, much as you would from a great movie or concert.

It’s so important to treat every guest individually – are they celebrating tonight or do they just want a quiet place for a business dinner? It’s all in the small details and we’re always thinking how we can go above and beyond to make someones night. That might be acknowledging a special birthday dinner with a dessert or ordering for the group that’s too busy catching up and enjoying themselves to choose from the menu. Welcoming a guest into your restaurant should be like welcoming friends to a dinner party – you can’t wait to share what you’ve created for them.

Can you tell us a bit about your personal style, and how it is influenced by your lifestyle?

Feeling comfortable and confident is my highest priorty when choosing an outfit. I love to wear bright, contrasting colours that stand out – it’s so much more uplifting than wearing black! I love long casual dresses and anything with a high waist – often with a pair of comfortable trainers to keep me on my feet all day at work. I don’t really have a ‘work wardrobe’ as I love owning pieces you can interchange to create different looks. That silk skirt with a t-shirt and trainers at work can be worn with heels and a cami at the weekend.

Summer is finally upon us, what are your warm weather wardrobe must haves?

Lots of long, floaty dresses! I’ve been living in my Anika Tiered Dress as it’s elegant for work but light and comfortable enough for the beach. Linen is my go-to fabric and I can’t go without a pair of Birkenstocks.

Lastly, what inspires you each day?

I love that every day is different in hospitality. There is always something new to learn, a new wine to try, new people to meet. You could meet a winemaker trying a different method of producing, a guest with facinating stories or eat something you’ve never tried before. It feels like there is no ceiling to the possibilities when every day is a new one.

Photography by

Holly Burgess

Words by

Sophie Beaton

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