Mystery bar number 31
Last week's mystery bar was guessed by Johnny and confirmed by The Sifter, who reveals (and revels in) a dodgy drinking history stretching back to the mid-90s. It was indeed Gibbons Bar at the West Plaza Hotel in Wakefield St. It's not exactly the Hilton, but one should be able to expect a half-decent Martini at any hotel bar worth the name. I haven't dared test this, but I suspect you could get a better Martini at Blend next door, and that's supposed to be a backpackers!
This week's mystery bar used to be notorious for many reasons, and there would have been times when only the staunchest and/or dodgiest punters would have ventured inside. These days it seems a bit tamer, though it's still not the sort of place that you'd take someone you were trying to impress. Unless they really, really liked cheap beer.
Having said that, it was comfortable enough on a quiet Saturday afternoon, and there were no scary patrons in sight. Actually, there were almost no patrons at all, apart from a South African backpacker trying to chat up the Australian barmaid. The general impression, though, is that it would get very busy at times, and I imagine it gets hard to move when there's a rugby match on or a band playing.
The decor is hard to describe. There are attempts at rustic effects (such as side tables made from halved beer barrels) and remnants of the building's historic fabric. There are signs that the last major renovation was in the eighties (gotta love those glass bricks!) and any recent redecorations are in a similar vein. But the underlying atmosphere is still generic kiwi working class pub, as seen anywhere from Kaitaia to the Bluff and at any time from 1940 to 1981. Some would call this a waste of a grand old building, but I imagine it suits its regulars right down to the (sticky) ground.