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By Heather• 16 May 2016
New watering holes continue to spring up around the city (and one not-so-new), all different and interesting - a slightly wild west saloon, another rooftop, a craft beer taproom, and a New Orleans restaurant and cocktail bar with 5,000+ drinks. Here's what I thought of them:
This is another venture by Davey McDonald and Mark Limacher (the Ortega Fish Shack folks), in the old Ambelli premises on Majoribanks Street.
The bar is a little wild west meets nana’s lounge meets American diner. Hank the bison greets you at the door (for real) and is also present on the glasses and apron buckles. There’s a lounge at the front downstairs and booths along the walls, while upstairs Hank’s as-yet-unnamed goat friend presides from the rafters. There’s loads of memorabilia everywhere, bars crafted from piano keys, and old black and white western clips playing on several tv's. Aaah, memories of the good ol' country life!
The drinks list is extensive, with nearly all wines by the half glass, glass or bottle (including some uncommon ones like a Washington Chardonnay, an Italian Vermentino, and a Brazilian Intenso Tannat), a large range of mainstream and craft beers (Epic, Panhead, Garage Project, Parrotdog, Guinness, Speights, Belgian and more), a gin and rye theme in the spirits and cocktails, and their own sangria on tap, trickily from a Lion Brown pourer.
The food covers delights such as pork belly in a steamed hoisin bun with Vietnamese slaw; Slim’s flatbread with Zany Zeus feta, truffled honey, rocket and pickled cherries (very rich bursts of flavour which I totally enjoyed, but the chip fiend thought had too much greenery - such a boy!); or prawn toast with chilli jam and minted cucumber. There’s also a kids menu, a couple of desserts, and a few finger nibbles if you’re just in for a pre-dinner warm-up.
This is a groovy addition to the CBD. Tuesday to Saturday 4pm til late. And do check out the funky toilet basins.
The rooftop is currently served from below, but will have a dedicated service up top shortly. Apparently its an excellent function location as you can shut the door to the downstairs and have your own bar, music and entertainment - totally soundproofed for both parties. Good thinking.
The food and drinks menus are the same as downstairs, with a wide range of beers, wines, tapas, brunches, lunches and dinners. I decided to try my hand at a little personal food and beer matching on this visit, so chose the duck liver pate on toasted rye with an extra stout Guinness. Success!
The chip fiend went for the smashed avocado and egg on toast (whaaaat, no chips?), with a totally random choice of a Garage Project ‘Whizz Bang’ beer, which turned out to include a little gunpowder tea, and serendipitously matched the food really well (how’d he do that?).
Both meals were tasty and nicely presented, the rooftop was deliciously warm and relaxing, and the service friendly and helpful.
Monday and Tuesday 3pm til late, Wednesday to Friday 11am til late, and weekends 10.30am til late.
This is the one that's been around a wee while. The Taproom is in the Aro Village and roaring along as you’d expect from the Garage team. It's small, cute and quintessentially Aro 0 a very cool place to wile away some time.
There’s always an interesting range of Garage beers on tap, with sample bulbs on the wall behind (and the cans displayed with their grains or hops), to help novices like me see what I’m ordering. They also have a cask pull which generates a creamy head and helps release aromatics, making the stout sample I was given beautifully moreish.
The food is done in partnership with Ti Kouka, the Leeds Street Bakery and Ontrays, and is all quality. The pictures below are from a couple of months ago, so the choices may have changed slightly, but we enjoyed the Aro Noir braised beef brisket and smoked cheddar melt; a cold cuts platter including lamb prosciutto (a little unusual); chicken liver pate topped with Death from Above sweet jelly; and the Chicharron pork scratchings with bacon salt. Nicely washed down with the Bossa Nova five-fruits summer tropical brew.
And if you’re an oyster fan, you should definitely try the Cabbages and Kings oyster stout with 120 oysters in each brew. Whoa Nelly!
There’s no way you won’t have a cruisy good time here. From 3pm daily.
These guys started out as a cocktail bar with supporting food, but are now a restaurant with supporting drinks. However, the feature still remains ordering by iPad, the brainchild of owner Jeremy Morris-Jarrett, with access to 5,000+ cocktail recipes, as well as food and a handful of wines and beers.
The cocktails are in categories (classic, royalty, drugs in your brain – yep truly), or you can select by filtering from your first desired ingredient, then your second, and third, until you get to a manageable list to select from. The food includes southern dishes such as gumbo, jambalaya, Louisiana BBQ garlic prawns and key lime pie, courtesy of Don Cliburn from the former Voodoo restaurant upstairs in Manners Street.
Thankfully, complimentary house chips arrived while we were ordering, or we would have died from dehydration or starvation (other than the chip fiend who just randomly selects stuff and adds chips). Orders are automatically submitted to the bar or kitchen, and at the end of the night you select a ‘settle up’ function to have the bill brought over.
The food was plentiful and pleasant, although not as spicy as we’d expected, but the real fun is the cocktail ordering. If all that selecting is likely to drive you insane, or you might be offended by non-pc cocktail names, then don't come here. But if you just fancy a bit of fun and want to see how technology might change the face of hospitality, this is the place for it.
I’ve got my eye on their Oprheum dessert tasting platter and a dessert cocktail for next time. From 5pm Wednesday to Sunday.
No way you'd die of thirst in Wellington any time soon!