Typical! Literally minutes after I wrote that I'd finally ticked off all the bars in Wellington, another one pops up. Not only that, but Jo goes ahead and outs it as a mystery bar before I've even had a chance to visit it.
As anyone who frequents Cuba St should know, Plum has been undergoing renovations for a while. The old Plum had been well-liked (as these reviews attest), but was starting to feel a little tired: perhaps somewhere between the late Krazy Lounge and Mr Bun. I expected little more than a lick of paint and some new furniture, so it's a bit of a surprise to see it in its sleek new incarnation by Alistar Cox of Matterhorn, Mojo and Mighty Mighty fame. As the barman said, it's now pitched as something between a European-style café (with a much more relaxed attitude to alcohol than our original 90's cafés) and a proper bar. While Martinis weren't on offer (the barman said his Martini glasses were still at home!), with Tanqueray and Noilly on the moderately well-stocked shelves and apparently knowledgeable staff, the signs are good for the future.
But this brings me back to one of the old problems with this year's quest: nomenclature. Where do I draw a line between a bar and a café, restaurant or venue? A license is obviously a prerequisite, as is being open at night at least some of the time, but the line can get a bit fuzzy. It seems that a lot of this year's openings are primarily cafés, bistros or diners, but are very congenial places for a quiet (or occasionally very noisy) drink, so I've tended towards inclusiveness. If you can get a pitcher of Margaritas at Sweet Mother's Kitchen, or shots of grappa at Scopa, or a decent Martini with live music at Ernesto, then I'm more than happy to call them bars. Some would argue that on these criteria I should also include places like Fidels or Katipo, but I'll stick with my somewhat subjective and arbitrary decisions for now. Besides, I've had a drink in both of those, just to be safe (and besides, I was thirsty).
This blurring of the boundaries is only a problem for taxonomists, of course. For the good folk of Wellington, it's great to see the breakdown of the old distinctions between café and pub, bar and nightclub, restaurant and music venue. Of course there will always be a place for seedy pubs, swanky cocktail lounges, sweaty nightclubs and scungy dive bars, but I expect in the future to find more places where a group of people with diverse needs could get a good coffee, a full meal, an inventive cocktail and a beer and nibbles all at the same time.
Speaking of which: cheers! I'll be out of Wellington, and in fact out of my normal comfort zone in the sprawl capital of the Bay of Plenty, for the rest of the year. So enjoy yourselves if you're staying in Wellington, but I expect to find it still in one piece when I come back.