Ever wondered what people like you are doing in another part of the world Right This Second? We do all the time, which is why on Saturday night we phoned a few friends of friends in Wellington, NZ for a general sticky beak. Wellington is the gateway to some of New Zealand’s finest wine country and home of Peter Jackson. More importantly it’s also the small bar and house party capital of the nation. Think San Francisco squished down to more manageable dimensions with bits of New York, London and Berlin sprinkled on top for good measure.
As it turned out, the pretty harbour city was being blasted by some of the craziest weather it has seen for years. Horizontal rain. Arctic winds. But in spite of it all, the good people of Wellington were still out and about and looking to party.
GUY, 34 - ALC APPAREL
Hey bro, how are you?
Just dealing with the insane weather that's in this country right now.
Right, Windy Wellington. What are you doing right now?
I've been having drinks at the ALC store, the guys have been tattooing and stuff. We're headed out to Mighty Mighty to see a rockabilly band and then there's a punk gig on at the Medusa bar. It's a band that’s been broken up for four or five years, that'll be sick.
That's Cuba St area right?
Yeah, we don't really do Courtenay Place, not our scene. A bit too cheesy and clubby down there.
Is this a pretty typical night out?
It depends, there's normally better stuff, the weather's just balls tonight. We'll go to good house parties, or one of the stores will be having a party - Good As Gold have a big pool party coming up in a couple of weeks. We've got a party coming up soon too. It's basically free tattoos - we spin a wheel and a design comes up, whoever wants to get it has to run up to the stage first and get it done right there and then.
So like house parties are the pants in Wellington?
Yeah, just cos it's a more social atmosphere, and it's probably a budget thing. At house parties you can take a dozen or two and live the dream and then go into town.
What did you have for dinner?
We just had these crazy toasted sandwiches while we were at Mighty Mighty, and did a little taste test of the gins. Pretty awesome. Wellington's crazy compared to when I go to other cites. There's more food joints per capita than the rest of the country for sure. We're spoilt for choice, a cheesy cliché but true. The new resurgence has been Mexican, there's a couple of real dope Mexican joints that don't have rip-off prices and have good beer.
LAURA, 25 - BLOGGER
Hey Laura, what manner of throwdown are you attending?
Er, I’m at a book club…
Wow! And is it pretty crazy?
It’s quite wacky.
I suspect you’re underselling it a bit…
Yeah, it’s really fun. We’ve been discussing a terrible book, there’s a few vegan dips, a pitcher of Black Velvet [that’s a mixture of Guinness and fizzy white wine –ed] and later on we might do some literary karaoke.
What’s literary karaoke?
That’s where if you have a song that you really want to sing that has some kind of literary connection like Wuthering Heights, we find it on YouTube and sing along to it.
That’s so nerdy and fun! So you guys are a pretty literary group?
Yeah, some of us work in publishing or write online and things like that. Wellington is a place that’s pretty conducive to creative and literary pursuits. Music, dancing, eating… eating is big here.
Oh that’s right, you’re a food blogger. Where’s great to eat and drink over there?
There’s heaps of great Malaysian places and noodle restaurants. Some fancy places too if you’re feeling rich. Do you want specific places?
Sure. How about best coffee?
Best coffee is a place called Customs Brew Bar on Ghuznee Street.
And best breakfast spot?
For breakfast there’s a place in Newtown called Monterey, and they do this haloumi French toast which is incredible.
Who does the best cocktails in Wellington?
A friend of mine had a cocktail with an ice sculpture in it at a place called Hippopotamus which is attached to the Museum Hotel. It was called a Rasberry Negroni.
Ha, amazing. You should go get one once the weather clears up. Have a great night!
THANAÂ, 25 – WRITER
Kia Ora Thanaa, what are you up to right now?
Well I'm actually down south in Greymouth tour managing the Wellington International Ukulele Orchestra. Ah, there's not much nightlife down here, but I know what I would be doing though if I was in Wellington. Right now I'd be leaving to go to Thomson St. It's a party house and pretty much every night out in town starts there. Most Wellington people will recognise that name.
Oh that’s the house party house, right?
Yeah they used to do things like, in the middle of winter, go out and get all their mates' heaters to plug them in all day and heat the place up. Then they’d have a party like it was January with ice creams and togs and stuff.
So you’d start out there, and then…
Well the best bar we have is Mighty Mighty, a typical weekend revolves around that. It's on Cuba St, the little enclave of sanity in the city. There's also San Francisco Bathhouse which is live music. Whenever there's an act in town we start off there and then head to Mighty Mighty. They've got a great booker that gets international acts that are a little less known, there's always a line-up of three or four bands. More often than not the night ends up as a bit of a lock in, you just feel a little more loved there than at other bars.
Sounds like there’s lots of venues around to see bands.
Yeah there is. Like Bar Bodega, that’s one of our longest running venues – it’s been a place we've been going back to more and more lately. Wellington's a small town really, there's not a huge array of places, but what we do have is really great.
Where's good to eat in Wellington?
There's a lot of different stuff for sure, but there's a great new Mexican place out in Miramar (not in the city). It's run by a Wellington couple who lived NYC for the past few years. They were sad about not having Mexican food to eat when they got home so they thought they'd bring it back with them. It's called La Boca Loca. Otherwise the best new place is called Ancestral. It's designed by the people that did Matterhorn, Bar Bodega, Mighty Mighty, kind of all of the main places you think of in Wellington. It's Sichuan food with a Yakitori bar out back. Feels like you could be anywhere in the world.
Where do you like to go the morning after a big one?
I tend to not go straight back into town after a night out. La Boca Loca do mean breakfast burritos and big pitchers of sangria, they make the day go smoothly.
TOM, 23 – CINEMA WORKER
Hey Tom, where are you right at this moment?
Well I’ve just finished work and I’m about to go to a party. I’m walking down the street and the wind’s kind of blasting my face off right now.
Whoa, but you’re still going out. You Wellington people are tough. What’s the party?
I believe it’s a birthday… I should probably pay more attention.
So while you’re walking, why don’t you tell us about a typical night out over there.
Well, Wellington’s got a reasonable tight night community so it’s usually pretty easy to find a party to go to, which is more my thing as opposed to going to town. Although if I am going to go to town I’d say Mighty would be the place. It’s pretty good for gigs and stuff. Also Happy is really good. They book a lot of local musicians from around Wellington, and occasionally they get really sweet international acts. Like I saw a really cool Jeffrey Lewis gig there a couple of years ago and it was great to see him play in such a small intimate venue. Bodega’s also pretty sweet. Uni’s just started and there’s always some pretty good gigs around this time of year.
Have you always lived in Wellington?
I was actually born in London. I’ve been here for about three years now.
And how does it compare?
I was fairly young when I was in London… I was barely out of my teens. But I’d say that it’s kind of easier to get to know people in Wellington.
Sweet. What’s a good late night Wellington snack?
Well it depends on your metabolism. Like I’d like to say that I’d go to Midnight Espresso and get something a nice mushroom and miso pie but late at night, it’s far more likely I’d go to Welcome and buy some gross cheeseburger shit in a tray or something.
How late do bars stay open?
Um… the majority of places will open to three. But if you’re really looking to be up ‘til dawn, there are places like Mish Bar. I think I might be arriving at the party. I’m in a dark alleyway… but there’s some balloons at the end of it. OK I’m here.
Oh cool. Describe the party for us.
It seems to be pretty raging.
First room has about thirty or forty people… hang on… it’s getting really hard to hear you.
OK, better let you go. Have fun dude!
OK thanks, nice talking to you.
For more fun stuff you can do in New Zealand, head to http://www.airnewzealand.com.au/kiwi-sceptics