Mystery bar number 50
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.
Today'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?