Mystery bar number 34
It didn't take long (a mere 45 minutes, in fact) for Martha to identify last week's mystery bar as The Wellesley, a gentlemen's club turned boutique hotel in the impressively metropolitan Maginnity St. It has been a quiet retreat for men of substance for over a century (though not always in that location), so perhaps Martha knows it well from past tycoon-stalking expeditions. My impression is that its adjustment to boutique hotel status hasn't quite delivered the flawlesly elegant experience that it should have done, but nonetheless it makes a change from the usual Friday night watering holes.
Obviously, my readership has gone much too far upmarket for that sort of establishment to present any challenge, so it's time to delve into the shadier corners of this city's nightlife. This is the sort of place where merely ordering a Martini might present a threat to one's physical wellbeing, let alone drinking whatever might result. Even requesting a G&T resulted in some sidelong glances from the bartender, who looked surly enough after having to take valuable time away from the brightly-coloured pool table in order to serve customers. And as the photo shows, there are plenty of bright colours here, though they struggle to be seen amid the stygian gloom. It's easy to imagine that it would have been even gloomier in the days before the smoking ban, and in fact it seemed as if the walls themselves were still smoking, reluctantly releasing the reeking carcinogens that had accumulated throughout their long, hard lives.
But there's one thing that sets this apart from every other dive bar in town. Amidst all the neon, UV lights, rock 'n' roll paraphenalia and mirror balls, there's a strange collection of statuary. Some of the busts and figures have a pagan aspect, while others seem demurely Christian. A few appear to be nothing but repainted mannequins, but others seem much more original and painstakingly crafted. It seems odd to find such an assortment of eccentric and slightly eerie characters among the bourbon stains, beer logos, pokie machines and leftover eighties furniture. I'm sure that under hard daylight they would seem just as tired and tawdry as the suroundings, but it's obviously a long time since they've seen any ultraviolet light that didn't originate from a bulb. The darkness suits them.