Personal reflections on urbanism, urban life and sustainable urban design in Wellington, New Zealand.

Friday, August 18, 2006

Mystery bar number 39

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Alright, I'll let Bruzie have it: the last mystery bar was indeed The Quarter until fairly recently, though I was hoping someone would recognise its new identity. Before that, it was Chevy's, a relic from the days when the Willis/Dixon area was what passed for a nightlife hub and cheesy Americana was hip. The Quarter made the American theme more specific by concentrating on Cajun food, but apart from being the site of a notorious brawl between TV3 and TVNZ reporters, it never quite made much of an impression on the Wellington psyche.

The Quarter closed a month or two ago, apparently due to an illness in the family, and it has just reopened in a new guise: MVP. The name suggests a sports bar, but there's no sign of sports memorabilia or giant screens: just a very cursory makeover. It's pleasant enough, and food in the downstairs restaurant is both delicious and good value, but there's little that's disticntive about it. At least they've kept the famous giant cowboy from the Chevy's days.

Mystery Bar #39 - Sinatra posterBut enough of the past, and onto the next mystery bar. This is a place that goes for glamour in a big way, with glittery surfaces, velvet ropes, "infinite" mirrors, Rat Pack references and a long cocktail list. Though perhaps "glitz" is a better word than "glamour", and maybe "bling" is even more appropriate, since the music was more hip-hop lite than Sinatra suave. The presence of a cocktail called "Crunk Juice" reinforces that impression.

Mystery Bar #39 - a Martini on the barAn impressive amount of work has obviously gone into this place, and the drink prices are quite pricey (some cocktails are pushing $20), but the overall feel is one of cheapness. Some design elements look to be deliberately retro or ironic kitsch, while others look like unsuccessful attempts to imitate contemporary bar design. The service needs a bit of work too. I asked the barman for a dry Martini, and he replied "Certainly, sir" while reaching for the Bacardi. Luckily the bar manager intervened in time to prevent disaster, and supplied me with a half-decent Martini.

I imagine that this place could be quite fun if you go there with the right attitude (i.e. too drunk to care, or in the mood for a laugh). Otherwise, it is to cocktail bars what Supré is to cocktail dresses, or what the late unlamented MidCity Centre was to cinemas, which in the fighting words of Gerry Melling: "aspires to urbanity, but achieves the provincial; it searches for glitter, but finds only paste (the crude flash of glass rather than the subtle wink of gemstones); it attempts to be slick, but forgets oil begets dandruff".


At 9:16 pm, August 18, 2006, Blogger Baz said...

No fair. Obviously your mystery bar comes from the 1980s, except the price tag.

At 2:10 pm, August 19, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

gosh, it would be Red Square would it?...there are hazy memories floating around in the back of my head...

At 2:24 pm, August 20, 2006, Anonymous Anonymous said...

At last I get to guess one. Boss in Dixon Street, formerly Diva. (When did Diva close?) A useful stopping off point between Good Luck / Matterhorn and the usual suspects at the Blair/Allen end of CP - there's not much else in that vicinity, or have I missed something.

At 2:14 pm, August 21, 2006, Blogger Tom said...

Anonymous is bang-on: it's Boss, which has taken over both Diva and the old La Casa Pasta upstairs. Diva closed quite some time ago (last year, I think), and the trasnformation has taken a long, long time (possibly due to the installation of 7 acoustically-isolated karaoke booths upstairs.

Red Square is a paragon of sleek contemporary urbanity compared to this place. It's a good thing the lighting was so low, or my eyes might have sustained irreversible damage.

There's not much else between Cuba St and the far end of Courtenay. Hope Bros is sometimes relatively civilised, and Zibibbo has its merits, but generally anything in the vicinity of Te Aro park is pretty scary. My advice would be to walk quickly until you reach Tory St.


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