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

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Democracy in action

Wellingtini: a guide for the thirsty - dead tree edition!At the risk of pimping the Wellingtonista awards ad nauseum, I thought I'd just point out that you have only two hours before voting closes. In case you need an incentive to vote (as if T-shirts and salads weren't enough!), I'll be throwing one more prize into the pool: a (very very) limited edition booklet called Wellingtini: a guide for the thirsty. This gathers together all my Martini reviews into one handy dead-tree format, adds some never-before-seen recipes, and garnishes it all with some surprisingly sober reflections and a scholarly bibli(ous)ography.

To be eligible, all you need to do is:

a) vote; and
b) turn up to the awards ceremony tomorrow evening.

As an aside, while compiling the reviews, I had to decide upon whether to include defunct bars. To do so would not be much help for the Martini tourist, but it may offer some insight into the reasons why those bars are no longer with us. A case in point is Boss in Dixon St, which is being replaced by Santa Fe from around the corner in Taranaki St (does anyone know what's to become of that location?). Boss was never exactly as classy as it wanted to be, and there were even hints that it was heading in this direction (we once saw a stripper being ushered into the back room by the staff), but some might say that this marks a new low for what has long been the Bermuda Triangle of Wellington bars (Dixon, Manners, Cuba). When Hope Bros is the most stylish and upmarket bar in the vicinity, you know you're in trouble.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Getting a head

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Cathryn Monro's sculpture Per Capita is being installed on the corner of Tory and Cable Streets, ready for its official launch on Friday evening, and thus just misses out on being eligible for the "best public artwork" category of the Wellingtonista awards. It's looking good, though, and bears an interesting relationship with the public space. You can read that as either "how wonderful to be able to interact with public art by walking through it" or "oh great, something else to clutter up the pavements": it's up to you.

Anyone who's worried about public money being spent on such frivolities as art (the very thought!) shouldn't be, since it's been funded by a $100,000 donation from Museum Hotel owner Chris Parkin (with help from the Wellington Sculpture Trust). It seems strange, though, to go through the effort of installing it now, when according to a article in the Dominion Post back in July stated that it would have to be "repositioned once a glass-fronted restuarant is built on the corner. 'One of the huge heads will be relocated to bisect the glass.'" That sounds intriguing, not least because it'll be interesting to see how the restaurant turns out given the blingtastic interior of the hotel.

On a completely unrelated note, while not wanting to reignite the heated and frankly bizarre pod wars that once raged here, it's hard to ignore the article in today's Dominion Post with the slightly misleading headline Monorail Plan for Capital. Actually, no-one's "planning" a monorail here, it's just that a company wants to raise money for a test track, and seems to be throwing around some ideas for potential routes. I won't try to suggest what to think of this, except to point out the appropriateness of the test track's proposed location being Rainbow's End, and that "Lyle Lanley" is still in the running for category 16 of the Wellingtonista awards.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006


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A blurry Martini-fiend: thanks Hadyn!Since my last set of Martini reviews back in September, I've tried Martinis at another eleven establishments, taking the total so far to 67. Since I only have six more bars to tick off to complete my Herculean task, and many of those seem distinctly non-Martini-worthy (such as the current mystery bar - there are some new hints among the comments), this will probably be the penultimate Martini review of the year. A handful of new bars are likely to open soon, and perhaps I'll take on some of the bars I've visited but where I've yet to try a 'tini: otherwise I've nearly reached total coverage (not to mention total organ failure). But on with the reviews!

Bisque On Bolton: 8.5
The drink was made out of sight, so I didn't see the ingredients, but I'd speculate that it was the good stuff. Served in a large glass with two giant stuffed olives, it exhibited the classic Martini nose of juniper, herbs and citrus. It had a strong, weighty mouthfeel and tasted of liquorice and citrus, tending gradually saltier as I approached the end of the drink. To round things off, the olives were delicious.

Bohdans: 5
Everything about this place seems like a flashback to somewhere between 1975 and 1985, so the ingredients were predictably old school: Gordons gin and Martini vermouth. These were stirred briefly with ice, then strained into an unchilled glass and garnished with two olives … and two straws! It had a vague gin and lemonade nose, with a sweet, tepid, watery body and a hint of pepperiness on the finish.

Ernesto: 7.5
This was generally a good Martini, though perhaps lacking a little in body (which I'll put down to the use of South gin). The single, giant olive was skewered off-axis, due to the presence of a pit, but the intensity of the olive flavour added an interesting dimension. With a little slick of brine on the surface, this bordered on being a Dirty Martini: it's a variation to which I'm not averse, though not what one expects by default.

The Lanes: 6.5
My order provoked some excitement, bordering upon consternation, among the staff: this was the first Martini to have been ordered there. By the time they'd found someone who knew what one was, I'd given up being too fussy, and even pressed on with my Quixotic request when they revealed that they only had red vermouth. In any case, with the "rinse the glass and discard" approach to vermouth the amount of that ingredient was so small that I wouldn't have suspected the presence of Rosso if I hadn't seen it. In fact, given the bar standards of bowling alleys in the Wellington region, I'd have to say the result far exceeded the norm.

Logan Brown: 8.5
This is an establishment that sets high expectations, and the presence of Junípero gin on the bar shelves confirmed that they are as serious about spirits as they are about food and wine. The enthusiastic barman stirred the gin with ice and a slug of Noilly Prat, then strained the drink into a refrigerated glass with two "free-range" olives. The bouquet was intense, with juniper and liquorice prevailing, and the richly unctuous body was let down only marginally by a slightly hot finish. Perhaps a little more stirring would have integrated the flavours more, but otherwise this met all expectations.

Mercure Willis Hotel: 8
Never trust a hotel bar that, at cocktail hour, has a sign reading "for bar service please contact reception". That's generally a good maxim, but the presence of Tanqueray on the shelves encouraged more optimism than usual. When I asked for a Martini, the barmaid summoned the bar manager, who seemed more than happy to have a patron ask for something other than a lager or a white wine.

Things started to go downhill from there. The Tanqueray bottle was almost empty, and an extensive search of the back rooms revealed that it was the last. Bombay it was, then. And Martini vermouth. In a glass that had a furry underside after weeks gathering dust on the shelf.

But what's this? A crisp clear appearance, pleasantly restrained citrus aromas, a full, smooth body and a satisfyingly tart and balanced finish. In other words, pretty much a textbook Martini. Upon complementing the bar manager, I found that he had previously worked at Hummingbird. It all goes to show that skill and care can triumph over mediocre ingredients and surroundings.

Mighty Mighty: 7.5
These were probably not the best conditions for ordering a Martini, given the crush at the bar as the band started their set, but the seductive promise of Tanqueray and Noilly Prat lounging provocatively on the bar shelves was too much to ignore. Besides, how can one not order a Martini in a place where the waiters sport waistcoats, turbans and muttonchop sideburns?

The bartender freely admitted never having made one before, but gamely pressed on under my instructions. I opted for a straightforward and traditional approach: chill the glass, pour five parts gin to one of vermouth into a mixing glass with ice, stir briefly and strain. It was garnished with a single free-range olive, but I wasn't going to quibble over the absence of a stick. The result was very pleasant and quaffable (though quaffing a Martini is neither decorous nor safe) without being outstanding, and I expect the results here would be better in more relaxed times.

Orchid Lounge: 6.5
The drink was cold and clear, though with an oddly yellow-green tint, and served with two olives on a flat stick. The aroma was sweet and herbal, dominated by lemon and the distinctive smell of vermouth, and while the body was drier than the nose suggested, it finished off with a sweetish edge. As I suspected, it turns out it was made with sweet vermouth rather than dry, so despite being drinkable enough, doesn’t really qualify as a "Dry" Martini. At least they didn't kill it with lime juice as they did in their previous incarnation!

St Johns: 8
Seated at a brand-new dark polished wood bar in a spacious Art Deco building, and spying Tanqueray Ten and Noilly Prat on the shelves, my expectations were understandably high. Opening nights are always a bit dicey, though, and in this case they were all out of olives. I went with a twist of lemon instead, and the result, while made with care and the best alcoholic ingredients, was dominated by the citrus flavour. I used to be a twist man, but now that I'm attuned to the savoury edge that olives bring, I find that a twist sweetens and overpowers the drink. They should be fully stocked with olives by now, so it may be time for a rematch.

Spice Island: 5
As this establishment is decidedly more upmarket than its predecessor Lumiere, I expected staff who knew how to make a Martini. Initial signs were good, as I was asked whether I preferred vodka or gin, shaken or stirred, twist or olives. The results were disappointing, however: a little on the tepid side, with a touch of cloudiness, and overpoweringly sweet. Later investigations revealed that sweet vermouth was again the culprit, and it had obviously been added in far too great a proportion.

The Grill at Duxton: 8
While I didn't see it being made (we were in the restaurant area), I'd guess that good quality ingredients were involved, since the result was canonical. Crisp, clear and cold, with three olives in a large glass, its promising appearance was confirmed by a heady aroma of herbs and citrus and complemented by a rich, mellow body and clean finish. Precise and delicious, without being groundbreaking, it's exactly what one should expect of a hotel Martini.

Monday, November 27, 2006


Map of Wellington's Central AreaToday is the last day for submissions on the District Plan Central Area Review. There's a huge set of documents to consider, and as I wrote earlier, the media didn't help by jumping to conclusions about its effects. I can't say I've read it in enough detail or with the right background to make specific or technical comments on it, but I agree with the general tone of the Architectural Centre's submission (57kB PDF) at an earlier stage of consultation:
The Architectural Centre is fully supportive of the council commitment to achieve "high quality built form and urban design outcomes." We particularly encourage proposals which support the premise that all new building (whether alterations, additions or new buildings) should demonstrate an overall improvement in terms of public benefit over the existing site to gain council approval.

We commend the Council for its shift towards a more "intelligent" design guide that will maximise the possibilities good designers can bring to the city. We caution though that the success of such a guide will depend on having the appropriate skills within the council to administer the guide well ... We do however have some concerns about the proposed Central Area guide in that it appears that the Council is being re-active rather than pro-active, and we encourage the Council to adopt a more visionary approach to long-term planning.
At the moment it's possible for a building to get through by "ticking all the boxes" in the design guides while still being depressingly ugly, or to be rejected despite being a positive addition to the streetscape, just because it breaks an inflexible rule. Theoretically, these changes should allow for more creativity, and possibly even convince some of the bottom-end developers that design quality is worth thinking about. But as the Centre says, if the council doesn't back this up with the right attitude and people, things could get even worse. Rumours from the council about developers holding off until the new rules are in place should have the more cynical among you wondering what we're in for.

Blank street edge of new Hirepool at 301 Willis StNevertheless, there are some examples to show that the changes are coming none too soon. A shabby, undistinguished but historically interesting old house at 301 Willis St (site of infamous bohemian antics by James K Baxter and others) was bulldozed. That's a great pity, but if the replacement had been a well-designed mid-rise apartment building with ground floor shops, its gains in density and variety would have offset the loss. Instead, we've got this: a surly blank bunker that sneers at its fine-grained mixed-use context. This branch of Hirepool now has some signs and a steel fence, but they do nothing to improve its actively hostile attitude to pedestrians and urban values.

I always would have thought that this would have been prohibited under the existing Central Area rules, but evidently not. The proposed design guide (875kB PDF) has several clauses that should eliminate this sort of travesty. For instance:

G4.3: "Place publicly-relevant activity in view at the public edges of buildings. Publicly relevant activity includes retail, event space, show
rooms and any other activity to which the public may gain access."

G4.4: "The proportion of ground level windows and openings should be maximised in areas of established retail activity and where intensive pedestrian use is likely. ... Frontage treatments should complement that of neighbours. However, where a street or public open space is currently dominated by inactive edges, it is important for new development to redress rather than perpetuate this situation. Windows should be connected to internal activity. Blank or 'false' windows are not acceptable."

G4.5: "Articulate or eliminate wall surfaces that are featureless or plain. Large blank surfaces should not occur at ground level at the street edge, nor at high level if in prominent public view."

G6.3: "Ensure richness of detail is provided in public areas and other parts of buildings that are experienced by the public at close range and for extended periods of time."

An argument could be made that this sort of activity doesn't belong in this sort of area at all (perhaps it should have stayed at its existing location). But given that it's here, couldn't it at least have the decency to put an office or reception area on the Willis St side, rather than a concrete wall? If these new rules will stop this sort of thing happening, then they're definitely a step in the right direction.

Friday, November 24, 2006

On ice

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There's an article on page A10 of today's Dominion Post (not online, but confirmed on the council's website) announcing that the ice-skating rink planned for Hutchinson Rd south of Te Whaea will not go ahead. While the developer (Wellington Indoor Sports) had already been threatening to pull out due to delays with the lease, apparently the final straw was the arrival of The Lanes. That sounds a bit odd, but the ice rink was suposed to have been subsidised by a 20-lane bowling alley, and it seems that Wellington's not big enough for two of them.

Originally-proposed location for ice rink - Hutchison RdThe council is still looking for alternative sites and investors, though, which is not surprising given that it was one of the mayor's pet projects. I was always a bit unimpressed by the original project, which despite some attractive environmental features from Aonui architects was firmly based upon a suburban model: a big, low box surrounded by carparks. This aerial photo shows the original site with the approximate size of an international standard ice hockey rink (61m x 30m) for comparison. There's certainly a lot of space there for a rink, bowling alley, cafe and a lot of cars, which no doubt endeared it to our car-loving mayor. Unfortunately, it's a long way from pretty much anything else (unless the dance and drama students feel like branching out into ice dancing), ensuring that those carparks would be necessary.

Possible alternative location for ice rink - Wakefield StWhat if ice skating went the way of bowling, and moved to an inner-city site as some are suggesting? Here's how the same-sized rink would fit into the empty Wakefield St site next to The Lanes: very snugly. It might be too tight to work, but otherwise the location has a lot of advantages: it's next to a lot of existing entertainment venues (Courtenay Central, The Lanes, Te Papa and the waterfront) and is half a block from the Golden Mile with its bus stops (and in a parallel universe, light rail). A single-storey box would be a waste of the site, but of course it could be incorporated as the ground floor of a multi-storey development, which might provide the income neccesary to subsidise the rink. If the site is too small, or Reading still want it for an arthouse cinema complex, then maybe the block just north of there (with its jumble of decrepit warehouses and car yards) would work just as well.

Possible alternative location for ice rink - Harbour QuaysIf we're talking about incorporating it into the ground floor of a bigger building (which I think we should), then how about the new BNZ building at Harbour Quays? I still haven't been able to find any plans or renderings for that, despite asking the architects and developers, but the footprint is clearly going to be enormous. Here's a mockup that shows a rink in context, together with the approximate footprint of the part of Shed 1 that's currently used for indoor sport. At a guess, I'd say that even allowing for atria through the building, there's still room for an ice rink, two indoor sports courts, and some retail or hospitality tenancies (such as a sports bar/cafe and a convenience store).

This location isn't in such an entertainment hub, but it's certainly well-placed for public transport, and if the indoor stadium goes ahead north of here (confirmation of the final site is still weeks away) it'll soon be a sporting mecca. The indoor stadium is too far from the CBD to be much use for lunchtime sports, but this end of Harbour Quays would be much better for that purpose, especially given the drift north of the working population. It would need a very high stud for the ground floor, and at least partially transparent walls to keep the edges active, but it should be physically possible.

Of course, this may be far too late given that site work has already started on the BNZ building. But if the council is going to follow the recommendations of the Kemp Report (which it commissioned) and ensure that Harbour Quays offers a mixture of uses, then this would be a great start.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Bypassing the truth

How sweet. The competition to name the Inner City "Bypass" has been won by Te Aro School, with the name "Karo" Drive. Apparently, "The K represents the kids, Aro their school. Karo is also a small native New Zealand tree that produces sweetly scented red flowers in Spring and grows very well in Wellington". Maybe it's just me, but I don't usually associate "sweetly scented red flowers" with a bloody great arterial road that's been shoved through a city neighbourhood.

The press release goes on: "The selection of the name by a school close to the area in which the bypass is situated was purely coincidental, and we are delighted that it has turned out this way," Mayor Prendergast says. "Te Aro School is an integral part of the community surrounding the bypass and the selection of a name submitted by that school is a tribute to them and their community". I love that phrase, "the community surrounding the bypass", which implies that heavily-trafficed roads form the centres of communities, rather than ripping them apart.

Remember how we were always told that "the bypass isn't a motorway ... It will be ... two lanes wide"? Well, the section of the bypass to be named "Karo Drive" will cover the blocks from Cuba to Willis St, and according to the official map it will actually be three lanes wide for most of its length, widening to four at the approach to Victoria Street. Victoria Street is also being widened to three lanes right now at the intersection of Abel Smith Street. Every time some idiot complains about our "anti-car" council, they should contemplate the amount of asphalt that this community will find itself surrounding.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Kitt of parts

Tomorrow is the closing day for submissions on the Frank Kitts Park design brief. The brief itself (57kB PDF) is a high-level document laying out the principles and functions that should guide the design, so there's no actual design to discuss yet. I've already had a go at suggesting some priorities for the redesign, but as is my wont, I couldn't resist having some thoughts about the physical layout.

My suggestions of possible alterations to Frank Kitts ParkThe Chinese Garden is supposed to be 3000 square metres, which is indeed a large area to incorporate into the existing space. My first thought was to put this on the under-utilised raised section at the south, but apparently it would be difficult to put water features there on top of the carpark. It would be expensive to dig up the existing amphitheatre in the middle, which leaves only the northern end. This map shows roughly how much space would be required.

But what about the popular playground? Without knowing the engineering details, I would guess that it wouldn't be too hard to relocate this to the raised area. Since the playground is something that kids would gravitate to wherever it's located in the park, that could make better use of the southern end, which is currently a bit of a leftover.

The other weekend when we visited for the Jazz Festival, the amphitheatre space was almost pleasant despite a nastier-than-average Wellington northerly. This seemed to be thanks to the terraces at the northern edge of the amphitheatre, and the trees just beyond. The eastern terraces weren't sheltering that space, but they did block any visual connection between it and the water. It might thus be desirable to stop these terraces at about the third tier, and then start stepping down towards the promenade.

My suggestions of possible alterations to the Frank Kitts Park apmhitheatreTogether with removing the steps that block the Willeston St viewshaft, this would help give the feeling of actually being on the waterfront, and create some informal seating facing towards the water as well as away from it. It would reduce the capacity of the amphitheatre (by about 50 or so), but for bigger events some temporary seating could be installed above the northernmost terrace. For really big events ... there's always Waitangi Park.

If anyone has any thoughts about these partly-baked ideas, let me know. For instance, the northern end might be too shady or inauspicious for a Chinese Garden, or the carpark end might be too windy for the playground. And I haven't even touched on some of the more imaginative redesign opportunities that might be possible. Add your comments, or even make an online submission: it would be great to get some positive and constructive comments to balance the knee-jerk naysayers.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Back on track: but only just

As I speculated in my last post, and as John confirmed in his comment, the council has announced that they've stopped the consultation process for the Johnsonville line and gone with the so-called "base case" of refurbished units. So in one sense this is indeed "back on track": the future of the Johnsonville line as a set of train tracks is secure. But (to stretch the metaphor still further), the wheels are spinning and we're going nowhere.

The "base case" will satisfy no-one. Not the supporters of rail or light rail, not the supporters of the busway, not even the tiny fraction of submitters who wanted to close down the line entirely. That's because the base case was never presented as an option for consultation, and it's actually a worse public transport offering than the "enhanced rail" scenario, which I considered fairly minimal and uninspired. As the technical report (824kB PDF) says on page 8: "The difference between the base case and the enhanced rail scenario is that the base case provides a less frequent train timetable (same as the existing), no improvement to bus services (the same as existing) and does not allow for any significant improvements to the stations." Woo fucking hoo.

So why has the council gone with a scenario that was never offered as an option? Given the mayor's indignation at the so-called "stoush" with central government, one might expect a fit of pique on the council's part: "if you won't give us your rail line, we won't do anything for public transport". But the technical report, which was close to completion long before the government acted, apparently "showed that none of the scenarios justified further investment". That's extraordinary, since it implies that even if the government had done nothing, the council would have reverted to the base case anyway. In that case, why the big stink? Alternatively, maybe the council would have ignored the report and gone with the busway, despite its poor evaluation, had the government stayed out.

But what about the report itself? Here's the overall summary of its evaluation, from page 31:

Overall summary of North Wellington Public Transport Study technical evaluationFor the moment, let's ignore the great big gaps and assumptions underlying the models and criteria (including the extraodinary assumption that "future fuel costs ... are assumed to remain constant over the forecast period"!) and try to understand the implications of these results. There's been no attempt to weight or compare the seven objectives, so you can't just add up the ticks and crosses to come up with an overall winner. If they were all weighted equally, then all the rail scenarios would work out better than the base case! The only way that the enhanced rail scenarios would work out less justifiable than the base case is if "economic efficiency and affordability" is weighted much more strongly than all the other criteria: even above economic and regional development. In other words, the long-term economic health of the region is ignored in favour of short-term bean counting. And they say Aucklanders lack vision!

Is there any hope here for those of us who believe that public transport capacity and quality actually needs to be improved rather than grudgingly maintained? It's notable that light rail came out on top on two of the categories (including the trivial matter of "environmental sustainability"!) despite a model that was stacked against it, and was first equal on two others. The report says this on page 32:
Light rail generally performs as well or better than the other scenarios across all objectives except economic efficiency and affordability and risk, where it performs relatively poorly. It has the highest benefits of all scenarios but also has very high costs. The funding contribution required from GWRC over the next 10 years is significantly more than allowed for in the LTCCP. On this basis it would be difficult to choose light rail without a significant commitment of additional funds from another source (such as central government) and a reduction in the risks associated with the scenario. Without a commitment to extension of light rail to serve the wider region, deployment of light rail on this corridor alone would not seem sensible.
I think most advocates of light rail have never seen it as a solution for "this corridor alone", but as part of the wider picture. So, the most optimistic view of the "base case" result is that it's just a holding pattern, and the much-delayed Ngauranga to Airport study will finally look at the benefits in an integrated way rather than as a series of disconnected studies that always fall down on narrow economic analyses, but I'm not holding my breath.

Oh, and the DomPost finally got around to publishing my latest letter yesterday, so at least their readers have seen some minor and belated correction of their vast misprepresentation of the support for light rail. Yay.

Monday, November 20, 2006

I can see my house from here - part 4

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Screenshot of new Wises mapping siteI haven't updated this series of posts for a while, and there's been a lot of development in the online mapping space since then. Google Maps finally got some decent aerial photos and street maps of New Zealand, and you can now even search for addresses. Wises allegedly spent vast sums on upgrading their site (and they certainly did on advertising it), but their interface seems clunky, error-prone and painfully slow in these days of Ajax-driven real-time goodness. Local business listings should be their strength, given their connections to UBD, but the listings are far from current (Fat Ladies Arms, anyone?) and spatially inaccurate enough to be misleading. And the maps themselves are just as car-focussed as ever: according to their maps, Cuba Mall is just a grey void. You can't drive there, so it doesn't exist.

Meanwhile, ZoomIn's been busy. This morning they launched ZoomIn version 2.0, with an updated interface, new functionality and extra content. Unlike Google (which has no local listings) or Wises (which is tied to a business directory), ZoomIn has taken an open approach and allows users to add their own places of interest, complete with photos, comments and star ratings. They've been doing that for over six months, but they've now added tags (a la Technorati, Flickr etc), thus taking them further into the Web 2.0 "folksonomy" space. The tagging system is new, so not much has been tagged yet beyond the obvious (café, bar etc), but what's there so far demonstrates that the developers are true Wellingtonians (check out the only place tagged as "cool"!).

Screenshot of new ZoomIn mapping site
This "folk geography" approach allows the name of this post series (which, incidentally, is one of the more common searches to find this blog) to take on a more literal and personal meaning. For instance, here is someone's rather poignant comment on the fate of their old house. They still have the "groups" approach as well, so groups like my old "waterfront changes" group still work. You can also do free-text searches combining tags and addresses (such as "parks in Wellington"), and there's one very useful new feature: search results update as you pan around the map.

As well as the user-created places, they've added some content of their own, for a total of over 30,000 places. Courtesy of Metlink, for example, they've added all the bus stops and railway stations in the Greater Wellington region, enabling you to do useful searches like "bus stops near Aro Street". The details page for each stop then links to the timetables for routes that stop there: imagine what could be done if Metlink's timetable pages were more mashup-friendly! Speaking of mashups, it looks like the site API (allowing you to do things like add places and groups via an HTTP request) has been deprecated for now. The mapping API is still there, so my first mashup attempt still works, and now that it provides circle, polygons and access to tile layers, it may now be as flexible as Google's.

The site is a work in progress, and probably always will be, so there are still a few ways in which it could be improved. For instance, it will only show a handful of search results on the map at one time: that's presumably to allow them all to appear on the sidebar at the same time, but it can still be a little misleading (I'm sure there are more than seven cafés in Auckland!). The business listings are also not always up-to-date, but given the rapidity with which such things change, anything short of employing a dedicated team of geo-boozers staggering the streets with GPS units is likely to have the same problem. At least anyone can leave a comment to inform other users of the changes. Finally, the aerial photos disappeared a while ago (apparently due to a change of map projection), but rumour has it they may be reappearing shortly. When that happens, with its clean interface, good performance and unique community features, this should surely be the online map of choice for most New Zealand users.

Best of the best

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Nominations for the First Annual Wellingtonista Awards for Outstanding Achievement in the Field of Excellence have been announced. You have ten days to vote for the superlative local examples of 26 categories, including the best bar to go to when even Winston Peters has gone to bed, the event that made you get off your arse the most and the most baddest wickedest evilest supervillain of the year. And did I mention the prizes for entering?

Friday, November 17, 2006

Mystery bar number 51

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This mystery bar lark is obviously getting too easy for some of you hipsters-about-town. I posted the previous mystery bar less than 24 hours after it opened, and within 2 hours it had been identified. Though I guess if you call yourself a "professional opening goer", then of course you had to be there.

It is indeed The Mighty Mighty (definite article optional), above Mr Bun in Cuba Mall. It's an informal extension of Matterhorn next door, and it's been eagerly awaited for a long time, ever since the previous occupants closed down following an invertebrate embarassment. It's quite a departure for architect Alistar Cox, revelling in burlesque bohemia and kiwiana kitsch instead of his trademark clean dark lines (cf Matterhorn, Mojo or Kaffee Eis). It's a style that hasn't been seen in a major bar in Wellington before, but Gemma's comment that it's managed by the former manager of The Pit make sense, since if I had to do a The Player-style pitch for it, I'd have to describe it as "Cabaret meets The Pit". And as with Cabaret, it's intended as a music venue: and I'm looking forward to Bachelorette playing there tomorrow night.

Mystery bar #51 - clienteleTime for something more obscure. Today's mystery bar is in a heritage building, and in one sense at least it certainly makes the most of it. The place is full of memorabilia and wall displays to remind patrons of the illustrious and colourful past of the building and its environs, but attempts to find a happy medium between historic charm and modern comforts have just resulted in blandness. Perhaps that's hard to avoid in an establishment of this sort, and it's better than some previous incarnations, but it's a bit of a missed opportunity.

The clientele was an odd mix when I visited. There were plenty of young people wandering through, but the bar was dominated by a jovial and already well-lubricated squad (is that the right collective noun?) of rural RSA members. Although this is presumably an unusual neighbourhood for them to gather, they seemed at home among the leather tub chairs and framed rugby jerseys. Despite their rambunctious comradeship, it still feels a long way from the diverse and occasionally scary bunch of people who used to gather here many years ago.

Mystery bar #51 - the bar

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Back on track: seeing the light (rail)

It's hard to concentrate on Wellington issues, given the media frenzy about a certain building in Auckland, a debate that I've had to get involved in in case I'm expected to be knowledgeable about it in the near future. But decisions are being made right now in Wellington, involving much greater sums than a mere stadium, and that could have a huge impact upon the shape and sustainability of the entire region.

The future of the Johnsonville line is only a small part of this, but it's symptomatic of the wider battles that are being fought for public transport. There's finally been confirmation that light rail has not been ruled out by the government's insistence on retaining the tracks. The article in today's Dominion Post still seems a bit confused about it though: while saying that the government "had not ruled out extending the railway through to Courtenay Place", it also persists in saying that "the Government ruled out three of the four options proposed during consultation". Sigh. To remove all doubt, the actual letter from Michael Cullen (568kB PDF) says:
...the Government would not support the conversion of the Johnsonville line into a bus way and that we would see little justification in taxpayers being asked to fund such a conversion.

Indeed, if the quoted cost of the conversion of the rail line to bus way is correct, then a small proprtion of that amount spent on a rail upgrade would deliver a very modern and reliable rail service.

I am aware of the desire to look at extending the Johnsonville line to Courtenay Place and this decision should not preclude that option in the future. (my emphasis)
So, kudos to Brent Efford and Celia Wade-Brown for keeping light rail on the agenda, rather than just fighting a rear-guard action to retain the current rail service.

There's not a lot else to be optimistic about, though. The Wellington City and Regional councils are both considering the study right now, and there's a nasty little surprise in there. What's being recommended is not even the "enhanced rail" option from the consultation, but something called "the base case" that was not even consulted on! This is not exactly a do-nothing option, but as near as dammit: replacing the old English Electric units with refurbished Ganz Mavag units, but with the same timetables and without the extra bus services that all four consultation options provided. This was originally intended merely as a comparison scenario, but despite some serious concerns from council officers (p6, 167kB PDF) it now appears to be seriously proposed.

I haven't had time to read all 163 pages of the Technical Evaluation Report (824kB PDF) since it was only released this week, but what I have seen looks fairly dodgy to me (and to the council officers who say in their report that they have "some residual concerns about the robustness of the analysis"). For instance, the risk analysis on pages 134-136 seems to treat light rail as if it were some weird newfangled technology rather than something that is used daily in hundreds of cities around the world.

None of it gets any better when you look at the bigger picture: the Regional Land Transport Strategy and Regional Passenger Transport Plan both make soothing noises about the value of public transport but continue to pour all the investment into roads. Here's a little challenge: see if you can work out from all 265 pages just how much of the funding will go towards actually increasing public transport capacity as opposed to roading or maintaining the clapped-out infrastructure. I haven't worked it out myself, yet, but it looks like less than 10% of the entire $4b budget. No wonder they're expecting the share of work trips to the CBD via car to decrease by a measly 3 percentage points (from 55% to 52%) in ten years!

From the article in today's Wellingtonian (buried on page 46), it looks like they're throwing it all back on the government to provide more dosh. While there's some justification in that, given the government's stated sustainability goals, imagine what they could fund by just ditching Transmission Gully! But then it looks like committee chairperson Terry McDavitt has no real belief in public transport: he evidently believes that the current surge in patronage is just a blip, and that "the balancing effect from the attractiveness of freer-flowing roads" will reverse it. I see: he's supposed to be promoting public transport, but he's also planning new roads that will take people away from it, and he sounds quite happy about that. There's consistency for you.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Chafing at the bit

I know it's not easy to think about eating and drinking in the sun at the moment, but there's finally been some official word about what's going into the ground floor of the Chaffers Dock complex, and when. When I last speculated about it, the real estate people were promoting a November opening, and as I suspected, that's turned out to be a little over-optimistic: it's now expected to open "after Christmas".

Chaffers Dock from the air, November 2006Wellington Waterfront have listed some of the food and other retail outlets that are confirmed so far:

A restaurant called Home. They describe this as offering "sophisticated, relaxed dining from breakfast to after dusk", which all sounds good. I wonder, though, what sort of price point it will be aimed at. There are several upmarket (>$30 for a main) restaurants on the waterfront, and a few pubby places, but one thing we're really lacking is a stylish but reasonably-priced café (something like Floriditas or Scopa would be ideal). Depending upon the balance between "sophisticated" and "relaxed", this might conceivably fit the bill.

Mövenpick. An ice-cream outlet of some kind was always going to be an obvious choice, but I was expecting a branch of Kaffee Eis. It's not the most local of brands, but I'm not complaining.

Subway. Ugh. If we had to have an international fast-food chain, I suppose it's not the worst around, but I'd still have preferred something local like Wishbone or Wholly Bagels. Or even better, can someone please convince Ka Pai to open a branch?

Empire Skate Shop: With the skate park being the most popular part of Waitangi Park, a skate gear shop is a natural fit for Chaffers Dock. This is presumably a branch of the one in Lower Hutt (please, no-one tell their billboard designers!).

The Italian Caffe. The wording makes it sound like this will take longer to arrive than the others. When it does, here's hoping that it does better coffee that the Waitangi Park Café.

A "gourmet seafood restaurant". This is yet to be named, and is probably still some time away. It will be on the side facing the water, and if it lives up to its description, it should be the biggest drawcard of the lot.

So, that's confirmation of three restaurants or cafes, two takeaways and a sports gear retailer. Other businesses are reported to be still in negotiation, and according to the real estate billboards around the site, there are now only two spaces remaining.

Those billboards suggest that they need something like a "deli, café, day spa, convenience store, florist" to complement the other retail offerings. I'd suggest (purely from a selfish consumer's point of view) that they could also do with a good old-fashioned fish 'n' chip shop and somewhere that does a decent Martini (if none of the confirmed restaurants do so) to fill in the gap in my Martini map. Feel free to make your own suggestions: Hadyn, I can hear yours alread...

Courtenay space

The revamp of the western end of Courtenay Place is under fire again, but this time not because of the removal of car parks, but because of an alleged subsidy for the owner of the proposed bar. A story in Saturday's Dominion Post headed "Wine bar deal sees rent waived" tried to make the case that "Wellington ratepayers are in the booze business whether they like it or not".

But hold on a minute. As the article goes on to say, the proprietor of the bar will have to spend an estimated $600,000 to renovate the heritage toilet block and build an extension, and after ten years the ownership will revert to the council. In return, the council will waive the rent over that time, the total value of which is extimated to be less than a third of the renovation cost. So the proprietor still pays most of the cost and bears the risk: that sounds like the ratepayers come out pretty well from the deal.

The source of the "scandal" is Councillor Jack Ruben. Surprise, surprise. The article goes on to say "Supporting Mr Ferguson with ratepayers' money was wrong when families, inner-city residents and even Wellington Mayor Kerry Prendergast were looking for more green space in the CBD, Mr Ruben said". Leaving aside the fact that Ruben's original objection was to the loss of car parks rather than green space, and question of whether people are looking for "green space" or simply useful urban space in the right locations, it's worth looking at what the development of the square and wine bar will do for public space overall.

Graph of space allocation for new park/square in Courtenay PlaceThere's currently a bit over 500 sq m of public space, of which 32 sq m is taken up by the existing toilet block. By closing the slip road, the total space will be nearly doubled to just under 1000 sq m. In addition to the existing building, the wine bar will have a 70 sq m extension, and will take up a variable amount of outdoor space for seating: let's be generous and say 100 sq m. That still leaves a net increase of at least 250 sq m of extra public open space, a 50% increase on the current conditions. The actual effect on useable space will be much greater, since the space will flow into the existing footpath, allowing other businesses (such as Burger Fuel) to open out onto the square, or simply providing more pedestrian space.

What are the gains and losses overall? The city and public will gain:
  • over 250 sq m of pedestrian space
  • a heritage building restored at no cost to the public
  • some extra trees and grass
  • better pedestrian circulation
  • a nice new bar in a sunny location
And what will have been lost?
  • drivers will lose three carparks
  • Jack Ruben has lost his rag (again)
That last bit might seem a bit flippant, but here's another quote from the article:
"...Ruben was outraged that the council was helping to put another bar into an area already identified by police as having high alcohol-related crime."
That's right, an upmarket wine bar is obviously going to attract more hordes of Tui-chugging boy racers and RTD-sculling Supré slappers to Courtenay Place. Where other people can see a lively (though occasionally dodgy) nightlife scene, all that Cr Ruben and his fun police can see is a crime scene: they won't rest until the Golden Mile is nothing but car parks and children's playgrounds.

Monday, November 13, 2006

Strategic submission

Submissions on the Wellington Regional Strategy close at 5pm today. While the whole strategy could have a big impact on the future of the region (it should do, given what we're spending on it!), I've chosen to concentrate my submission on the section entitled "Good regional form", since that has most relevance to WellUrban. Except where stated, all page numbers refer to the full strategy document (3MB PDF).


There are plenty of good intentions in the "Good regional form" section (e.g. "More homes close to city centres and transport links" p40), but they are let down by the details, by half-hearted targets or by the reality of current policies and actions.

For instance, I agree that the Johnsonville to Airport spine is vital change area for the region, and if anything the planning for it needs to be accelerated (2009 for a planning framework is too slow). But the vision of a compact urban spine served by high-quality public transport is compromised by continued acceptance of greenfield development (such as Lincolnshire Farms), and by treating the Ngauranga to Airport study and the North Wellington Public Transport Study separately.

As another example, the responses to peak oil and climate change (page 54) are inadequate, or let down by the details. This is exemplified by the "Issues/Opportunities" statement on page 9: "Maintaining the current good balance between private and public transport, walking and cycling." It's not good enough to "maintain" the current balance: we must shift the balance towards sustainable modes and be ready for increased public transport demand, unlike this year where the infrastructure was unable to cope.

The explanation continues: "At present we’re high users of public transport, which is good. We need to continue investment in this area and ensure our urban design decisions are 'public transport friendly' and maximise the investments we’re making into public transport."

This is contradicted by the draft Regional Land Transport Strategy, which commits $2.7b to roading projects and only $1.3b to public transport. This mix is far from "maximising" the investment in public transport, especially when only a fraction of the $1.3b "investment" in rail will actually go to improving service or increasing capacity rather than operating costs or deferred maintenance.

Instead of continuing with the "business as usual" approach of favouring expensive roading projects which can only promote a dispersed urban form, I urge you to follow the advice of the Urbanista report (442kB PDF) that you commissioned:
"Apart from providing an excellent transport service to Wellingtonians and assisting in leveraging high density growth from the CBD fringe and out towards the airport, a transit system like a light rail system designed appropriately would make a real statement about Wellington, how it functions as a city, and would be an attraction in its own right." (page 3)

"Light rail is another option which while costly will add value to the city, will be able to leverage higher density employment and residential development and potentially could be an important urban and economic icon for Wellington and one of its key marketing tools." (page 11)
Apart from supporting good regional form with public transport infrastructure, it's vital that compact urban form is realised along with quality urban design. To this end, architects should be commissioned to design exemplars of attractive, sustainable infill housing at a range of densities and price brackets, to help prove to sceptical sectors of the public that higher density need not be scary. I also support your affordable housing statement (page 41), since there is currently not enough emphasis on this from city councils.

Sunday, November 12, 2006

Mystery bar number 50

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I've already confirmed that last week's mystery bar was the new Manhattan Lounge in Oriental Bay. It's a pleasant enough place (despite somewhat unreliable opening hours at the moment), but it's all a little bit safe and predictable. Despite its name, it has more in common with its bourgeois seaside location than with the pulsing heart of New York City.

Mystery bar #50 - lamp and stageToday's mystery bar, however, is in the heart of nightlife territory and perfectly reflects that with an attitude that's all about theatricality and decadence. The style is eclectically retro, throwing together a startling combination of eras from the 1890s to the 1980s, but it all works. Stark exposed concrete is offset by plush red curtains and jazz-age tropical plants vie with kiwiana relics, somehow creating a sense of real glamour while simultaneously satirising the very notion. They're having their irony and eating it too.

They take drink seriously, presenting a list of cocktails based on local themes and ingredients, which is no surprise given the influence of their famous neighbour. But really, this place is all about performance. That includes musical performance, of course, but also the social rituals of staff and guests: there were some messsy pavlova shenanigans going on when we visited, and some extravagant facial hair acrobatics that can't be completely explained by Movember. It's a heady brew of old-world glamour, knowingly seedy circus antics and laconic humour, served with a generous twist of burlesque. Some would argue that it's trying too hard, but really: what's not to like?

Mystery bar #50 - the bar

Friday, November 10, 2006

Bouncing back 3

The Manhattan Lounge in Oriental BayAfter looking at some of the recent retail developments in Wellington, it's time to look at the hospitality scene, which still seems to be healthily rebounding from a spate of closures early in the year. Let's start with this week's mystery bar, which Hadyn identified as Manhattan Lounge, below the White House in Oriental Bay. It opened last week in a space that's been empty for what seems like an age, ever since the demise of Europa (which Wotzon somewhat hilariously still describes as 'a "rising star" of the restaurant scene'). I think it's worth the wait, as it's good to have a dining option in the Bay that's somewhere between the bank-breaking formality of the White House and the greasefest of the Fisherman's Table. And if they can live up to their name and deliver the cocktails that they're promising online, then Oriental Bay will finally have something resembling a bar.

Closer to the city, The Ambeli has taken over another long-vacant spot, in what used to be the much-missed Roxburgh Bistro. It's a bit more casual than its predecessor, but if my experience and that of the reviewers at DineOut and The Guide are anything to go by, it's a very worthy replacement.

Some of you may be surprised that I never used The Hawthorn Lounge as a mystery bar. There are several reasons for that: given the hints that some readers were dropping, it would have been too obvious; it was operating in quasi-speakeasy mode when I first visited; and taking photos just seems too vulgar for a place like that. Besides, any place that does a Martini that good doesn't need extra publicity.

The Orchid Lounge, Cuba St, WellingtonIt seems like every second bar or café is calling itself a "lounge" these days. In Hawthorn's case it's thoroughly justified, but the Orchid Lounge (which is the old East West in Cuba St after a very light makeover) seems to be pushing the definition a little. There's a token cocktail list, and the new menu of skewers and "Asian tapas" is heading in the right direction, but I can't quite think of it as a lounge bar. Its New York namesake has vats of infused vodka, and shouts everyone a free shot thereof whenever a gong behind the bar rings out: now that's what something called "Orchid Lounge" should be aiming for!

As a helpful commenter announced recently, the former Neat has reopened as Our Bar. It's a laid-back bar aimed at a gay and lesbian clientele; more of a pub or café than a stereotypical "gay bar". It doesn't quite replace Pound, though: that's the job of Spicehammer, which also opened last month. Maybe Wellington's gay community is so small that it can only support two bars at one time, since Monkey also closed at about the same time as Pound, and while there are rumours of a re-opening, there's no sign of life there yet. As Maximus suggested, though, it's probably more due to the fact that most decent Wellington bars are far from homophobic.

There's no official word yet on where Il Casino will reopen, but despite some snarky comments from a reader and a non-commital article about the owner of the Mayfair, that still seems the most likely and appropriate location. In the meantime, there's another tribute to Remiro Bresolin from a former employee over at Gonzo Freakpower.

The former Bouquet Garni is finally undergoing some serious renovation, and a licensing application notice has appeared in the window announcing that it will be a licensed restaurant called The General Practitioner. That's a rather odd and cumbersome name, so it'll probably be generally known as "The GP". At least they didn't name it after another profession that famously worked in this building. That just leaves the boarded-up Kopi across the road as the last of Vim Rao's fallen empire yet to reopen.

Willis St is undergoing some big changes, and recent news about the Chews Lane development has confirmed earlier rumours that The Malthouse will close. That will happen at the end of the year, and while earlier suggestions that it will move to the site of Seam in Courtenay Place have proved unfounded, it will definitely reopen in what the owners have described as a bigger and better site. No such luck for the Hare Krishna Higher Taste restaurant next door in Willbank Court, as that has succumbed to redevelopment: there's a rather forlorn note on the hoardings upstairs asking whether anyone knows of a suitable site for them to use.

Overall, though, it looks like the net effect of the changes is positive. Looking back at my last full analysis, there are only three of this year's earlier closures (Bar 155, Play and Kopi) that still show no signs of reopening, plus the couple mentioned above (Monkey and Higher Taste), compared to over twenty openings. The new Holiday Inn should also have a bar and restaurant (which if the bizarre renderings are anything to go by, will look like a lounge designed by Arne Jacobsen for Mumbai airport) and I'm hoping that at least some of the food and drink outlets planned for Chaffers Dock open in time to make the most of summer. There's also been a handful of new café and takeaway joints opening up (such as the Waitangi Park Café), so the industry's looking fairly buoyant, and enough to keep even the most dedicated urban gourmand busy.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Shops that pass in the night 10

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Illicit Boutique and DMC DJ supplies, Cuba StAfter Leather Direct moved down from 177 Cuba St to take over from Bellamys Bookshop at number 105, its old shop was taken over by DJ equipment supplier DMC. With Mojo Sound, Slowboat Records, the San Francisco Bath House and Valve all in the vicinity, that makes this the most muso-friendly block of Cuba St. DMC's move left a gap in Manners Mall that has just been filled by a branch of Auckland-based streetwear and graffiti-supplies retailer Loaded, further entrenching Manners Mall's reputation as the hoodie mecca of Wellington. To be fair, though Loaded stocks all the usual brands (Dickies, Carhartt, Nike), it also has a few more interesting items that I haven't come across before, and the upstairs trainer temple would be enough to get any sneakerphiliac drooling.

Map of music- and skull-related shops in Cuba StNext door to DMC at 175 Cuba St, there's been a less convoluted chain of events. The China House moved out, and while they still have an outlet at the Wellington Market (but not for long), I haven't heard of any plans to open a replacement shop. The space is just about ready to open as the Wellington branch of Illicit Boutique, complete with murals by their good friend Misery. The location of this long-awaited development could hardly be better: along with Popup, Eyeball Kicks and Calico Jacks, it will form a tight little cluster of skull-obsessed emo-chic.

What does all this mean for Wellington? After unravelling all the moves, effectively we've had a (grumpily) independent second-hand bookshop replaced by a brand-laden purveyor of globally commodified yoof culture, and a nationwide chain of furniture importers replaced by a nationwide chain of hipster-friendly quasi-goth fashion. There's a slight trend towards gentrification and homogenisation, but it's hardly rapid given that the whole process has taken most of a year. Also, since China House's wares are still available, it's resulted in a slight increase in the diversity of products available in the city.

The demand for retail space still appears to be strong (there are only two spaces left in the new Chaffers Dock development!), so affordable shop space may become scarcer with time. On the other hand, the overall supply will increase once all the retail components of Harbour Quays, the waterfront and Chews Lane come onto the market, as well as all the surviving buildings around the bypass. With luck, all the upmarket and chain stores will find the space they need up the northern end of town, allowing Cuba St to do what it does well.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Back on track: Chinese whispers

While the debate about the busway still simmers away in the comments, the Dominion Post continues to get its numbers wrong. I guess the reporters are too busy to check the facts with the original sources, so they just look back at what they wrote last time and repeat or even worsen their previous errors. Today's article on page A7 (not online) is primarily about the Johnsonville town centre plan, but it touches on the scuppering of the busway option and manages to get at least two things wrong. While I've given up much hope of the DomPost ever correcting their errors, I had another go and wrote this:
Your article about the Johnsonville redevelopment (7 Nov) stated that the North Wellington Public Transport Study "has been marginalised by the Government's reluctance to remove the railway line to adopt alternative transport options, effectively scrapping three of the four alternatives - despite 1600 submissions supporting a busway replacing the trains". This statement is wrong on at least two counts.

First, there are still two options that retain the tracks. As well as the enhanced rail option there is also light rail, which would not only keep the tracks but extend them through the CBD. As far as I can see, nothing about Ontrack or the Government supporting the retention of the tracks would rule out light rail.

Secondly, there were 1606 submissions in total, of which 981 supported the busway and 589 supported enhanced rail. 456 submissions supported light rail (not 56 as you reported some time ago), so in fact there is wide public support for retaining and enhancing the rail service.

Far from hindering the Johnsonville redevlopment, the retention of rail should give certainty to Johnsonville's role as an important public transport node.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Mystery bar number 49

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I apologise for having to be slightly more oblique than ususal in my description of last week's mystery bar, but if I'd mentioned that it's a bowling alley, that wouldn't have been much of a challenge, would it? Even with my deliberate omission of that minor detail, it didn't take long for Jo to identify it as "the new posh bowling place", though DeepRed was the first to actually name it as The Lanes. While the decor is rather overworked, and the dominating effect of the projection TVs are at odds with the aspiration to be an "urban cool bar", it still makes for a fun night out, and as I said back in August it's a welcome addition to the central city.

Mystery bar #49 - wine wallToday's mystery bar has also explicitly aimed for urbanity, and has succeeded to some extent. Whereas in a previous incarnation it was rustic and homely, it's now sharp and monochrome. While still being primarily about food, it now has enough alcohol-focussed elements (a wall of wine bottles, another wall of spirits in front of a water feature, a long cocktail list) for it to sneak into the "bar" category, at least according to my generous definitions.

I say that it's succeded only "to some extent" in being "urban cool", and that's because for all its urban iconography, there's a bit of a suburban feel. During the day the black leather booths are full of prams rather than partygoers, and if you park yourself on one of the leather-and-chrome barstools you'll find yourself surrounded by counter snacks and herbals teas rather than Boston shakers. The décor also tends toward chilly rather than "cool", more Lambton lunch spot than loungey decadence, though perhaps they're expecting the summer sun to give it some warmth and friendliness.

These are the pitfalls of trying to span the café/bar divide, but it's actually a very nice place for a quiet drink or a meal. At the moment the wine list is more admirable for its avoidance of food miles than for its adventurousness, and the stemware and liquor selection don't seem quite able to deliver the signature drinks on offer, but I think that with time and experience this will become an all-round success.

Mystery bar #49 - the bar