COURTENAY PLACE AND PERIPHERY
Wellington guide-book writers always get a bit carried away by Courtenay Place, using words like ‘throb’ and ‘pulse’ and other coitally-suggestive phrases that make it seem far more exciting than it actually is. By all means, make it your centre of ops on a night out, but remember that there is far more to be had out there. Highlights include Diva (really on Dixon St) for dancing, The Ballroom for pool, and the Sports Café for getting skanked on. Hit Blair and Allen streets, too, for the last word in trendy (Jet, Vespa) and the last place you’d want to be seen in (Play).
While some lament the loss of the concrete chessboard, post-refurbishment Manners Mall continues to attract a wide variety of Wellington’s public. Although it is ultimately a BYO venue, light refreshments are often available in the form of a sausage sizzle run by Christians for the low low price of your soul. While the outdoor atmosphere makes it less than pleasant during bleak months of winter, in finer times there is no shortage of splendid entertainment, from the screeching tones of the toothless accordion-playing buskers to scrapping amongst the youth. Just don’t let Walkwise confiscate your Kristov kiddies!
BODEGA (Ghuznee St)
Bodega was where the White Stripes played for the first time in Wellington before they were world famous and could charge $70 a ticket. It’s always offered a fine selection of Wellington’s finest bands as well as bands from around the country, and one of the best selection of beers in the known world. For first years, a night (or every Tuesday of the year!) at Beats n Bubbles can’t be missed, with $2.50 bubbles and a $3 pint special and funky sounds and all the assorted goodies that come with ‘cheap drinks’. You know the ones – ladies in singlets in the middle of winter and plenty of dodgy pickup lines. You never know, you could meet the man/woman of your dreams at this wonderful and lively establishment. Or not.
SYN BAR (Bond St)
As a Satanist and Master of the Black Arts, I had high expectations for a bar named Syn. Unfortunately, these dreams went up in smoke about as fast as a Salem Witch as I entered the premises, as what I found can only be described as the drinking establishment equivalent of the Christchurch Wizard. This place was as empty as a cathedral on Monday, the only hymns breaking the silence emanating from an easily ignorable Disk Jockey. The one saving grace for this parish of piss was the “sexy barmaid” who told me that I should mention her in this review – so hopefully I might get a free drink if I can ever be bothered going back.
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THE FAT LADIES ARMS (Dixon St)
What exactly cowboys and civil war memorabilia have to do with a bar named after a fat woman’s limbs I’ll never know. Then again, this place does not make a lot of sense – the clientele are mostly children, they have a large advertisement for Budweiser but don’t actually serve it, and they think Bryan Adams is a musical genius… this is the perfect watering hole for already confused first year students. Older people would be advised to stay well clear for fear of shame. Still, at least the mark of ‘the fats’ stamp is invisible, so no one has to know…
VALVE BAR (Vivian St)
The Valve bar plays host to some of the finest live music to be found in Wellington, welcoming a wonderful array of bands both local and sometimes international acts. See punk, hardcore, metal, or just plain ol’ rock n’ roll, often accompanied charmingly by some lone uncouth heckler stumbled in the door from Vivian street. Tuesday Drum n’ Bass nights are also popular along with the corresponding drinks specials. On the door it says Valve does not have a dress code, but it has an attitude code. There is cool art and old drumsticks from many a great band mounted on the walls, on the whole decor is grimy, and if you are ex-Hutt chances are you’ll feel at home (and perhaps bump into some old chums).
RVR (Cnr Queens Dr & Laings Rd Lower Hutt)
So you’ve got into the bar that Liv Tyler got denied from and now you’re saying, “Where next?” Why not try a trip out to the Hutt? Bars like RVR don’t require you to get your ultra swanky gears on and the bouncers usually still let you in even if you drop your ID five times while in line. True, some of the locals are a little bit scary, and you are likely to find sinks filled with vomit. However, where else in Wellington will you find a gem like RVR where you can belt out some karaoke classics and buy drinks that don’t cost an arm and a leg all in one place?
CLUB K (Manners St)
Don’t tell me you don’t do karaoke. Even the most reticent of folk have a nascent wannabe streak, and it’s amazing what some gentle persuasion and a surprisingly good Long Island Iced Tea will do to coax the Diva forth. Club K, upstairs above the African hair studio on Manners St, has the best song list in town. From Burt Bacharach to ‘Baby Got Back’, just try to forget that they only broadcast your vocal outside, with no musical accompniment. Inside, of course, you’re a star.
THE CELL (Taranaki St)
A funky little jazz bar that’s in the basement of the old Police Station (hence the name). Lots of room to sit down, chill and enjoy one of the tasty cocktails whipped up by one of the bar staff who know their stuff and are very helpful. Good collection of spirits. If you’re hungry you can order food from Zibbibos upstairs. Live music varies depending on the night; either a jazz trio or a DJ mixing some lively beat.
THE MATTERHORN (Cuba St)
Matterhorn: This is a stylish cosy bar with delectable drinks and soul-filled sounds. The vibe is mellow and the clientele classy, so strictly no white pants here. The music is smooth, ranging from jazz to soft beats, with live acts on Wednesday nights. In reflection of the upmarket atmosphere, the drinks are considerably pricey, so take your visa card or make it a one-drink stop. I highly recommend trying one of their cocktails, the Falling Water is particularly delicious. Weeknights are the best time to try out the Matterhorn, as on Saturday nights it is almost impossible to get a seat.
THE FEATHERS (Cnr of Featherston St and Johnson St)
This place is marketed as an English Pub. It’s the cheapest and dirtiest of the three corner’s bars, but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Standard pub food, but tasty and cheap. Pokies room if you feel the need. Tip: Drink half-pints as you get more for your money here. Sometimes there’s a live band playing. Start here then move across the road to Leuven or the Black Harp.
THE BLACK HARP (Cnr of Featherston St and Johnson St)
Gets busy after work, especially on a Friday. Irish Pub, and the only one in the CBD, so Law and Commerce students, this is where you head to on St Patricks Day between classes. Live music sometimes from fairly good bands. Pokies room to help fund the community. Serves good pub food and does brunch to reduce your hangover the following morning.