Mystery bar number 55
It took a while to get the exact name, but the previous mystery bar was Plate at the recently opened Holiday Inn. I don't know about you, but for me the brand "Holiday Inn" conjures up images of dingy brown carpets and noisy wood-veneered ice-makers in the corridors, not sleek design and good cocktails. But Wellington's one is supposed to be the prototype for a rebranding and move upmarket for the chain, and they've gone to great lengths to change their image. That includes a restaurant and bar designed by Tom Skyring of Dine and Mikano fame (though I have it on good authority that his input amounted to a few sketches, with most of the work done by the good people at Studio of Pacific Architecture) and bar training by the staff at Hawthorn Lounge. That all seems to have paid off, though it remains to be seen whether locals can get over the brand and the less-than-intimate lobby to realise that there's a really rather good new bar and restaurant on the corner of Featherston and Whitmore streets.
By contrast, today's mystery bar doesn't seem to have gone to any special effort to bring in design talent or top-notch mixology. Oh, it's certainly been designed, but there are no fancy Verner Panton chandeliers here, mate: just a vague attempt to make it look like a shearing shed with some wooden beams and corrugated iron. And although they were advertising an upcoming cocktail night, it appeared that you'd have to make your own. Besides, Speights would do just fine for most of the customers.
There's a big smokers' area, but other than that, light and sunshine are not its strong points, and windows are a rarity. The rural theme only goes so far (you wouldn't find rows of pokies, neon beer ads and a giant screen playing Nickelback in many shearing sheds), and overall it's a bit of a mishmash. That confusion extends to the name, which might even conjure up yuppie associations in contrast to the staunch "Balcultha tribe" iconography. But its longevity shows that it must have a strong and loyal following.