Flying in and switching off

The Oaks complex sometimes seems like a hospitality Bermuda Triangle: fast-food joints and dodgy convenience stores jostle with bars of almost unrelenting crapness. But something’s about to land that looks much more promising: Memphis Belle Coffee House.

Memphis Belle Coffee Shop - Dixon St

With a barista who just came second in the regional champs, a serious-looking range of Flight beans from their Napier home base and glimpses of an interior that looks vastly more sophisticated than its predecessor (not that that’s saying much), Memphis Belle might just put the Oaks curse behind it. It should be opening this week, and definitely seems worth checking out.

On the other hand, it looks like it might be lights out for a bar that was never exactly this fly’s favourite place: Electric Avenue. There was a skip outside this weekend, gradually filling with neon-painted MDF as the gaudy interiors were ripped out. It’s quite possible that it’s just a particularly violent renovation, but it all seems rather sudden, and their Facebook group has been silent for a month. Is there anyone out there who will admit to being a regular and can confirm or refute its demise? And what are the chances of getting a decent bar to replace it? Given the location in Munter Central, I guess the most we could hope for is a bar that can at least spell its street address on its website.

Bars to spend summer in

This is the extended version of today’s piece in the summer section of the Dominion Post.

Mixing it up at the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix

mojitoThose of you who follow us on Twitter might have noticed a reoccuring hash tag yesterday of "cockchamp".

This was, of course, us reporting live and on the sport from the New Zealand heat of the Havana Club Cocktail Grand Prix held at Betty’s. Ten of the best bartenders from around the country battled it out for the chance to represent NZ at the world wide finale in Havana next May.

You may already know that Clare Harlick from the Matterhorn won, but what went on at the competition and at the VIP after-party? Read on!

Play Four Square in Wellington!

Foursquare has arrived in Wellington – and we’re one of the first Australasian cities to be included!


But, you say, "I thought Four Square was a chain of over-sized dairies with a charmingly retro Dick Frizzell logo!" To which we’d say, "Ho ho, you cheeky post-ironic urbanites, we mean Foursquare, the location-based social networking game that’s taking the world by storm!"


You may remember back in September we wrote about Twitterplaces, which rather sadly shut up shop almost immediately thereafter. Well, Foursquare was the inspiration for Twitterplaces: when you go to a new place; a bar, restaurant, park, anything, you "check-in"; and then you can see who of your friends are there.


Four Square Wellington LeaderboardAnd that’s just the beginning. There’s an overview of it all here, but here’s the basics.


You can leave tips for things to do at each place, or add other people’s tips to your list; you earn points for check-ins outside work hours, and you can earn badges for various "achievements", like the Bender badge (when you are out for four nights in a row), or the Gym Rat badge (when you are a regular at places tagged as a "Gym").


And: you can become Mayor of a spot by being the person checking-in most often in the last 60 days (though perhaps one should exercise discretion as to where one checks-in if one doesn’t want to become Mayor of a supermarket or shopping centre, like <coff> some of our readers—whom we are too polite to name).


One of the nice things that’s happened in other cities is that Mayors are often rewarded by the proprietors of their places – and that’s what’s happened here already at Mojo Old Bank, where Matt will stand a free coffee to the newly crowned Mayor. We can think of a few other places that we’d like to see extending this sort of courtesy! (Especially the ones we go to often.)


Foursquare depends on having some sort of internet capable mobile device: there’s a mobile web version, as well as the inevitable iPhone and Android apps – and by design these are the only ways you can do check-ins.


So sign up, get out there, and see if you can unseat Pablo G. from the top of the Wellington Leaderboard!

Oh, Adelaide, Adelaide, I want you tonight

The first we heard of The Adelaide when it popped up on Adelaide Rd in 2006 was when Tom gave it the Mystery Bar treatment on WellUrban.

This week’s mystery bar used to be notorious for many reasons, and there would have been times when only the staunchest and/or dodgiest punters would have ventured inside. These days it seems a bit tamer, though it’s still not the sort of place that you’d take someone you were trying to impress. Unless they really, really liked cheap beer. Having said that, it was comfortable enough on a quiet Saturday afternoon, and there were no scary patrons in sight. Actually, there were almost no patrons at all, though the general is that it would get very busy at times, and I imagine it gets hard to move when there’s a rugby match on or a band playing.

… and he couldn’t have been more right!  Many a wasted night has been spent in its confines, and the subsequent wasted day was always well worth it.

Unfortunately The Adelaide shuts it’s doors this Saturday after more than three years of gigs and good times. So you’ve got one last week to come down and enjoy a band, bingo and beer. We’ll be capping it all off with a massive day of music for Halloween

Weds – The Final Spin for the original BINGO event in town

Thurs – Bad Statistics, Detrytus & guests

Fri – Sniper Alley ACDC tribute

Sat – Matinee show; Streetlight Requiem, The Proxies

Sat Evening; Fosset & Badger, Cougar Cougar Cougar, The Cold Shivers

Apparently there is nothing planned for the site at this stage, but apparently alsa "the vultures are circling" and we’re sure it won’t take long for someone to move in.

Eating our way through the recession

Remember a few months ago, when doom and gloom dominated the hospo news? Well, there certainly have been a lot of closures in central Wellington, but many of those places have re-opened, and we’ve even got a few brand-new bars and restaurants to celebrate.

Here’s a list of reincarnations:

  • Vintage → Hashigo Zake
  • Calypso → Elixir
  • Epic → Rhythm
  • Chow Cabaret → The Library
  • Paradiso → Betty’s (I insist on the apostrophe)
  • State Opera House Espresso Bar → Pollux

Some brand-new places:

  • Portofino (at Kumutoto)
  • Red Ginger (underneath Hawthorn Lounge)
  • Lychee (in the wilderness of Arthur St)

A couple of rumoured upcoming openings:

  • "Cuba" (replacing Zeal in Garrett St)
  • Yet another Irish pub, replacing New Orleans in Allen St

That leaves a handful of recent failures yet to be revived:

  • Herd St Brasserie
  • Subway at Chaffers Dock
  • Emporio in Chews Lane

If anything, the industry looks to be healthier than a few months ago, and a few of the new places (Pollux, Hashigo Zake and The Library in particular) are among our new favourites. If this means that consumers have stopped spending on Plasma TVs while still dining out, then I applaud their good taste. Of course, it could mean that we’re all committing kuidaore (a Japanese term roughly meaning "to ruin oneself through extravagance in food"). But what a lovely way to go.

WiFi @ Hashigo Zake

We are informed (thanks Chris!) that Hashigo Zake (website here, blog here) has free wi-fi for patrons.

Nice. Message ends.

Never mind the bad puns, here’s Pollux

One of the worst-kept secrets in Wellington bar-land is about to be revealed: new wine bar Pollux will open next week, in what was once the State Opera House espresso bar in Manners St.

Pollux logo

Now, as a modestly-educated fly I knew that Pollux was a god and a star, which made me wonder what made it a good name for a wine bar. But apparently "Pollux" comes from polydeukeis, Greek for "much sweet wine", so that astrologers associate the star Pollux with prosperity and celebration with wine. I’m not one for astrology myself, but I’ll drink to that!

Karaoke: ur doin it rong

Is it just me, or is there something odd about this poster outside the new "Newkor" Karaoke restaurant in Dixon St?


That singer looks somewhat … uncomfortable. Perhaps it’s something to do with the item on the menu that’s described only as "WARNING! Extreeeemley! Hot and Spicychicken" [very sic].

In other news, the re-opening of Happy on Friday night was a happy occasion indeed. I was puzzled by some of the outfits at first, but if I’d read my co-fly Kowhai’s previous post I would have seen the "Dress up like something that can fly!" instruction. At least I was already in costume.

The relocated stage sets up a different dynamic, and the feeling was low-key, friendly bohemian rather than po-faced avant-garde or desparate hipster. Speaking of Mighty Mighty, they were marred that night by a godawful frat-boy band that made Blink 182 seem deep and intellectual. We still love us some Mighty, of course, but it’ll be interesting to see how the new Happy does in comparison.

I’m H.A.P.P.Y.

Happy image

So sometimes right, you have the kind of week where all you really need is a good hard laugh.  Two weeks ago I had such a week and took myself off to Happy Bar for a good seeing to by the lovely Diane Spencer, who was feted to be ‘full of wit, charm and filth’ according to  She did not disappoint, and neither did Happy Bar and its convivial new owners, cosy refurb and new drinks menu. 

Tonight Deborah and Sam are having a  re-opening party at Happy Bar with $5 drinks and a full line up of live music.  Dress as something that can fly and go now!

Deborah and Sam hail from Auckland and I get the impression that they are going to keep what works with Happy; namely the focus on being a performance space open to allcomers, while opening it up to more of the bar crowd that enjoy Watusi and Mighty Mighty.  People that have been to the supremely comfortable and living room like Wine Cellar in Auckland may recognise Sam from behind the bar.  Here’s hoping they bring some of that unpretentious goodness to Wellington. 

Deborah told me a bit about the drinks: