Pub spy: The Backyard, Northcote

Joel Stanley is one of the friendly staff at The Backyard Bar. Photo / Doug Sherring
Joel Stanley is one of the friendly staff at The Backyard Bar. Photo / Doug Sherring

Address: 31 Northcote Rd, Northcote
Hours: open 7 days 11am-late
Phone: ph (09) 419 6299

Ah, the heady scent of past glories.

The Backyard is part of the fabled old Poenamu Hotel, which was the home for All Black squads in years gone by and is now a series of disparate businesses, including a motel, sports bar, Hell Pizza and the improbably named Gengy's, which is a Mongolian barbecue joint that sources have recommended to me.

But back to the Backyard, which is the nicer of the bars in the complex. It's now a bit flasher than the likes of Grizz Wyllie would remember and has little in the way of appreciable rugby references at all.

That's no bad thing and I was pleasantly surprised on entering the large, spacious bar. Or rather three bars, because it's a three-in-one job that boasts the only swimming pool in a bar in Auckland. Sitting by the pool is not unlike being in a resort somewhere.

The staff are friendly enough and the beer selection is from DB, so you're fine if you like Monteith's, Heineken and Tiger, although other bottled beers are available. What caught my eye - and my affections - was the presence of Monteith's Doppelbock on tap. I love that beer and have done since it first came out way back in the days when the Dead Sea was merely a bit ill.

The decor is quite funky, too, with a strange mishmash of styles that shouldn't work, but does. The tropical fish tank is an inspired addition to any bar and there is so much room that you could have four weddings there and you'd still find a quiet corner to enjoy your beer.

The bar's website, perhaps unwisely, promises "an extensive New Zealand wine list", so I was a bit disappointed to pick up said wine list and find it far from extensive. It's the sort of wine list that looks as though it was thrown together at very short notice and, frankly, it's a big let-down, especially as the food menu is longer than the summer holidays.

Still, it didn't detract from my enjoyment; after all, I was drinking Doppelbock and therefore as happy as a cat in an aviary. It's a nice enough spot for a few quiets and I can imagine it attracting the more vigorous sort of reveller during summer when the pool really comes into its own.

To take a vaguely iconic tavern and turn it into something like this is brave and that bravery should be rewarded.

Service: 3.5
Menu: 4
Drink: 3.5
Atmosphere: 3.5
Overall: 3.5

- Herald on Sunday

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