The roomy, much-loved Sale St. underwent a refit several weeks ago and has re-opened with a new handle – Sweat Shop Brew Kitchen – new menu, and awesome new look (and ping pong tables!).
While the connotations of perspiration and child labour are less than pleasant, the name is actually a reference to the building's previous life as the factory of one of New Zealand's biggest clothing manufacturers, Ross & Glendining. Decades ago, workers under this same roof produced sturdy denim garments for the shipbuilders and boaties in nearby Westhaven.
There are nods to the space's heritage throughout the bar, my favourite being the denim upholstery in the new dining area (made from jeans donated by staff), where punters can tuck into Americana-inspired bar snacks, gourmet pizzas and burgers, and salads that are anything but boring. Try the twisted nicoise – the maple-cured salmon is amazing.
The real star of the show is meat. Sweat Shop boasts an in-house grill and smokehouse, and an ageing cabinet by the new open-plan kitchen is packed full of bacon, ribs, and pastrami: it's a carnivore's paradise. We ordered the house smoked pastrami ($15.50) to start, which was delicious served with spicy mustard and 'beer bread', baked fresh with Sweat Shop's homebrew. The pastrami was so impressive we decided to go the whole hog and get the smoked meat platter ($48 or $35 only on Sundays), which also came with sausages, chicken wings, ribs, bread and butter pickles and blue cheese dip.
The boutique in-house brewery, kicked off in the Sale St days by Mike Simpson, is spitting out about four times more beer than before thanks to a shiny new rig. House-brewed and American pale ale and lager are always on tap, "easy to like and approachable", our waiter promises; but if you're less adventurous there's the standard offering of Heineken, Tiger etc. in addition to a long wine list and some truly delicious-sounding cocktails.