If you were ever 18 in Auckland you most likely remember Carpark. A decent bar, serving standard beers and ok food, known for hosting some fairly epic gigs and looking better under the cover of darkness at 2am. Well, Auckland's grown up and so has Carpark. Under the tutelage of the folks at String Theory (the team who designed and branded 16Tun), Carpark has transformed into Underpass, the ultimate urban/industrial watering hole.
On entry you may notice how the bar's exterior fits into the concrete surroundings with it's blue neon signage and pitch black concrete. Inside the design is similarly minimalist and industrial, characterised by bare concrete walls, American oakwood furniture, exposed ventilation shafts and hanging globe lights. Designing an interior decor so stark and industrial is a smart move, as the busy underpass visible from almost everywhere in the bar, now adds to the space's character instead of detracting from it. You truly feel as if you're in a semi-futuristic, craft beer serving underground club, instead of some dive next to a motorway (sorry Carpark).
Then there's the food. It's obviously geared toward late night diners as it's served in wee faux wood containers which you can hold in one hand while you drink/dance/do as you please with the other. The menu's emblazoned across the wall in neon and reads #StreetEats: skewers, tacos, meatballs, merino lamb, sliders, paua fritters. It's all snack size and goes for under $4. I can personally vouch for the deliciousness of each item as I saw it as my duty to sample everything in the name of a comprehensive review. The paua fritters are made with plenty of paua, plus a little egg and seasoning just how nana used to make 'em. The skewers taste like they're straight off a street corner in Malaysia (go for the lamb), and the tacos also ring the all the right bells.
But in the end what's going to make or break this awesome looking, delicious street food serving bar, is the drinks, the music and the people. The music is varied and includes renowned DJs from New Zealand and around the world blasting aural treats through a custom Martin audio system (epic sounding speakers). The drinks menu is a craft beer geek's wet dream, and also features a healthy selection of NZ wine favouring locally produced drops and a good selection of classic cocktails. I can't vouch for the quality of the people, as the joint had only just opened upon my visit and there was a lack of said people to be judged (except for the bartender, Marcello, who I can confirm was a rather swell chap). In any case, I'll be at Underpass on a Saturday night soon, because by then it's sure to be one of the busiest bars in Auckland. If you pop in as well, look out for me; I'll be the guy doing the robot with one hand and eating paua fritters with the other.