WellUrban

Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Mystery bar number 43

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Jules was right: last week's mystery bar was indeed St Johns in the old Free Ambulance Building on the waterfront, or to give it its full name, the St Johns Heineken Hotel. If you're anything like me, such a name would have provoked waves of apprehension, evoking as it does a heavily themed and branded beer barn.

In reality, the Heineken branding is relatively subtle (probably more so than the owners would have liked) and the wine and food offerings are considerably more serious than at its beery neighbour just down the wharf. The fitout is spectacular and wholly appropriate to the building's art deco heritage (there's a better photo here), though it won't reach its full potential until the mound is removed and the lagoon extended as part of the Taranaki St Wharf public space revamp. The last time I was there, the music was a bit offputting, though that's no doubt been selected to suit the predominantly corporate clientele. Nevertheless, it's a seriously stylish addition to the city, and at a stroke it has doubled the number of waterfront drinking options south of Queens Wharf.

Today's mystery bar is, ummm, just a little bit different. No salmon tartare or pistachio-crusted lamb rack here, mate! If you want something solid to go with your Tui, then there's a choice of pies or more pies, fresh from the countertop warmer. There's a range of entertainment, running all the way from darts to TAB terminals, via a pool table and pokies. I can't say anything about the wine selection: I got suspicious enough looks from the only other customer for ordering something as posh as a pilsner. It goes without saying that a Martini was out of the question.

While it's obviously a working-class kiwi pub, it's not a staunch neighbourhood local. Despite a few vain attempts at recalling or creating a history for itself, it carries an air of impersonal dislocation and mass-produced placelessness. Perhaps this is inevitable, since it's close to some of the urban elements that in many cities are often associated with transience. On the other hand, it's in a building with at least as much architectural merit as the Free Ambulance Building, and that once hosted guests at completely the opposite end of the social spectrum from its current target market.

7 Comments:

At 10:00 AM, September 25, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Is it mates? (Or what used to be called Mates, not sure if it still is.)

 
At 10:11 AM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

No, it's a much smaller place than that. Mates turned into Play some time ago, then closed down about the end of last year.

 
At 12:58 PM, September 25, 2006, Anonymous lx said...

Sounds like the art deco hotel opposite Wellington Station. Name escapes me now.

 
At 1:22 PM, September 25, 2006, Anonymous SirMatt said...

It's the Stadium Bar which is in what used to be the Hotel Waterloo which is indeed the "art deco hotel opposite Wellington Station". It nmay still be called that, although the "hotel" part is now the Downtown Backpackers.

 
At 3:03 PM, September 25, 2006, Blogger Bearhunter said...

That nautically themed one, whatever it's called. It used to have nets on the roof and a cracking triv night on a Tuesday...

 
At 3:06 PM, September 26, 2006, Anonymous Simon said...

is it the one on lower cuba? can't remember its name, the old Ox......

 
At 11:00 PM, November 03, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

The doorman on friday nites is a hottie!!!!

 

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