Mystery bar number 52
I was hoping that someone would get the actual name of the current mystery bar, but Simon was close enough: it's the "Parlour Bar" at the Comfort Hotel Wellington in upper Cuba St. This was better known, and much livelier, when it was Trekkers, and I have some hazy memories of "poets' pub" nights there back in the early nineties. One performance poem stuck in my mind because of its title, Here's to the Crazies of Cuba Street, though it made more sense back then when come Cuba St café owners kept pit bulls in their upstairs flats and sold Class A substances over the counter. Now it's a fairly quiet hotel bar (the odd RSA platoon notwithstanding), after undergoing renovations that emphasise the "heritage" aspects of the old People's Palace building but leave few traces of its more raucous and bohemian recent heritage.
For a complete change of pace, today's mystery bar is very typical of the "new" Wellington nightlife. It combines dark, loungey intimacy with a contemporary take on Orientalist decor, and the Asian theme continues through to the food and cocktails. Combine this with a discreet entrance and a policy of appealing to a more mature crowd than the stereotypical Courtenay hordes, and you've got a place that could be a stylish and quiet retreat for the serious drinker.
Not that it's always quiet, however. Music is a big part of this bar's appeal, and it can get pretty loud in here when a live band or DJ is playing. Despite the overall Asian look, there's nothing Asian about the music, with jazz, downbeat and Latin styles the preferred genres. When live music isn't on offer, you can leave the dancefloor alone and take to the barstools or the low tables in one of the small rooms. They offer some intriguing signature cocktails, but if you'd rather not muck around with lychees and lemongrass, they can certainly make an excellent Martini, so the Europhiles among you can relax.