Mystery bar number 49
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.
Today'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.