134 Ponsonby Road may have closed its doors on an old time favourite — and we'll always be thankful for the memories — but now's there's a damn good reason for you and every man and his dog to get back on the horse.
Nestled between the Ponsonby's strip and suburban Grey Lynn, Hoppers Garden Bar is as peculiar as they come – but in the best way. The new kid on the block is owned and operated by sisters Jessica and Bronwyn Payne, who set out to build with the "Avoid the ordinary, seek the marvellous," motto in mind. And boy have they delivered.
From the leafy-green plants, to the vintage picture frames, to the fringed lampshades, to the quaint, red and navy doors, you'll be forgiven for thinking you've been transported into a sophisticated version of Alice in Wonderland.
Once you manage to peel your eyes away from the sights, you'll naturally migrate to one of the oak dining tables, where the menu awaits. At first glance, you'll notice that the weird and wonderful themes have been reflected in both meals and beverages — particularly the cocktails. The Jungle Flora, Hidden Forest or Clock Tower are of notable mention, with their wild fruits, exotic tonics, chilli hits and sprinklings of coriander (also try the Nose Tweaker).
After you've decided on a cocktail, turn your head to the platters, which have descriptions likely to make any reader salivate. The sharing plates are perfect for a party of two or more. For something saucy, try the fried chicken platter or the sticky pork ribs. Or, if you're after some colour, the crispy taco shells with jackfruit and guacamole, or the glorious Garden Bowl with rainbow raw veggies, fruit, nori, avocado and satay will no doubt hit the spot (don't go too hard on the chilli oil, unless you're into fire breathing).
Beer is also a big deal here. And we couldn't wrap things up without mentioning the 18 taps, which boast flavours and styles from all corners of the world. Think hop-heavy brews from Mount Brewing Co., Birkenhead Brewing, Behemoth, Hallertau and more.
So whether it's an after work mender, a lunchtime drop-by, or a night on the town, make no mistake of falling down the Hopper's rabbit hole. I'm almost certain you won't look back.
Image: Hoppers Garden Bar.