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By Concrete Playground
December 04, 2018

Wellington's Best New Bars of 2018

The city's very best boozy additions of the year.
By Concrete Playground
December 04, 2018


The city's very best boozy additions of the year.

From moonlit rooftops to moody watering holes, Wellington almost has it all when it comes to bars. But this hasn't stopped a horde of new and inventive ones from opening this year. A brewery/restaurant/bar/gallery from craft beer legends, a post-apocalyptic sci-fi bar and a Pacific-themed haunt with over 100 rums. This year's newbies are nothing if not diverse.

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    ParrotDog Brewery

    ParrotDog’s new brewery/restaurant/bar/gallery out in Lyall Bay truly offers something for everyone — particularly if you love craft beer. The bar revolves around its renowned brews — all 15 of them. Our favourite is the Specimen B2: Riwaka Fresh Hop Sour, though if you’re looking for something a bit more traditional, get a pint of the lager or the original creation, the Bitterbitch.

    Perfect for an afterwork wind down, or even for an intimate evening with someone special, take the opportunity to get out of the city and grab a beer and bite to eat. With a whole selection of sandwiches, salads, and other bites to munch on, this pub grub will impress. Although some feel that that there is a saturation of craft beers in Wellington, ParrotDog certainly deserves a spot on your to-do list.

    Image: Lucy Aitchison.

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    PhotonFlux is Wellington’s first and only “post-apocalyptic space station”, offering a comfortable stop for the thirsty traveller. Once docked, the visual vortex of astounding sci-fi and pop culture decor will lift any geek off the ground. 

    Not only does the decor create great atmosphere, it is also the sense of community and fun about this place. The spacious seating area is accompanied with board games, books and pinball, keeping you entertained for hours. In addition, they boast a variety of creative events to keep up with on their calendar. Upstairs, there is even a gallery, named the The Room of Requirements which is open to artists who are keen to contribute.

    The owners Anton and Nina, not only provide an amazing hangout spot, they also make sure the food and drink is up to par for the Wellingtonian palate. There is a good selection of craft beers on tap including, but if that’s not your scene there is a generous selection of organic wines and non-alcoholic beverages too. However, the real treat lies within the themed cocktail menus. 

    Image: Lesley Wild.

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    There’s no doubt that the fruition of the Ghuznee Street beer mile has left Wellingtonians spoilt for choice. It’s hard to imagine how our options could really improve beyond the smörgåsbord we already have. Yet, since the doors of Whistling Sisters’ The Fermentery opened, it quickly became obvious that it is a very special addition to the city.

    Simply, this place oozes cool, and everyone can see it. There are three main areas. The first, a casual bar setting, is perfect for those after work drinks. Beyond that is the open restaurant space with great views into the brewery and front kitchen. Yes, there’s nothing like seeing everything being made in front of you. And, for something a little more intimate there is a quiet and moody dining area, which can be sectioned off for private functions. All have their own style, but flow seamlessly with one another in the open airy space.

    The food also continues the brewery’s philosophy of creating something unique. For these guys, it’s celebrating the fermenting process, beyond just the beer. Amongst the menu there are abundant choices of sharing plates, ideal for the casual hangout.

    Image: Lesley Wild.

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    The idea behind Glass, a wine bar new to Chews Lane (aside from great times with people you love, and good wine, and good food), is transparency. Transparency in the origins of the neat, mostly French natural wine list, and transparency in the quality and origins of the ingredients that make up the dishes to complement them. It’s in the name, really.

    Glass is where after work drinks turn into nibbles, then dinner, which turns into a late night — which turns into another visit in the morning for a restorative espresso. Drinks are poured atop the shiny new zinc bar, which will gradually age to look more like the burnished bars of Parisian bistros. Perch up at the high table, or take a banquette seat. Glass is the sort of place where you immediately feel comfortable.

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    Wellington now has an establishment dedicated to the diverse cuisines of the Pacific. Before Lulu, Te Wharewaka was your go-to for some choice Aotearoa eats, but Lulu showcases another level of Oceania.

    Situated where Ancestral used to be, the energetic restaurant is the breath of fresh air Courtenay Place desperately needed. Think Pacifica/Oceanic gastronomy, but with a twist. Unlike the kind of intimidating, mafia atmosphere of Ancestral, Lulu is instantly relaxing. Faux grass and plants adorn the ceiling, portraits of prominent Māori figures are framed proudly on the walls, and tunes like Kalohe Kai and Fat Freddy’s Drop treat the ears. Much like Ancestral though, there’s an indoor dining area and bar area, while the famous heated benches are still outside in the courtyard bar.

    The menu is an honest reflection of Pacific cuisine. Think plenty of fresh seafood like Fijian snapper kokoda, yellow seafood coconut curry, and even a whole suckling pig. If you’re heading out to the bar, then take advantage of the rum collection. Just shy of 100 different bottles, you can literally taste the world through this sweet spirit.

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    Night Flower is a bar for the most elite, expensive and exclusive to hide away upstairs for an evening — which is probably why we couldn’t find it on our first go. Hidden unassumingly between Cuba Street’s 1154 Pastaria and The Rogue & Vagabond, the dark wooden sign above tells those in the know they’re home, and keeps the late-night wanderer, unknown Wellingtonian or ferocious partier firmly on the Ghuznee Street pavement, forever passing by.

    After hiking a barrage of stairs, you’ll be gestured into a dark booth lit only by a short candle and the Night ‘n Day on Cuba Street.

    G&Ts are the specialty. Rinwick Boon (formerly from Crumpet, he owns the place) makes the citrusy syrup that fills your glass. With a careful hand selecting the gin (it’s not just Beefeater here) the result is a light, tangy and refreshing lemonade-style drink.

    Night Flower is the place you yearn to be at, but always think is a bit too posh for you. It’s luxurious — the jazz becomes more exotic as the hours go on — the ingredients are fresh and wildly over perfected (make sure to try the English Milk Punch).


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