Hours: Open Monday to Thursday from 4pm, Friday to Sunday from 11.30am
Phone: (09) 376 5367
One of the lovely things about being self-employed is being able to shout yourself the occasional long lunch, or - even better - an afternoon off.
I decided to do this recently as I needed a break; after all, my boss is a monster and my staff is a bone-idle dullard, so I took myself off to somewhere I could relax, think about life and crack the Listener cryptic crossword.
So imagine my disappointment when I bowled up to the Herne Bay Local only to find the place was closed until a frankly puritanical 4pm. I trudged off and had a beer at home instead.
However, what I could see inside was enticing enough for me to forgive them their temperance tendencies and return at a more worker-friendly hour. I'm glad I did because although I was half-expecting it to be one of those poncy, over-promising, under-delivering bars that considers nice furniture a substitute for service and quality produce, I was quietly impressed.
It looks sumptuous: all dark wood panelling, stylish furniture and wicker-basket lighting and a few intimate nooks and crannies for a private evening out. The service was prompt and efficient, if a little on the deferential side. (I enjoy good service, but go too far and it can appear obsequious. In this case I'm willing to give the benefit of the doubt and simply be happy that there are still young people out there with lovely manners.)
The beer selection is plentiful, albeit solely from the DB stable. That's not a criticism; I've enjoyed Amstel for a long time, but would it hurt to throw in a few more ales?
The spirit selection is what you'd expect for a bar near Ponsonby Rd, but the wine list is where the HBL really shines. Yes, there are a few "supermarket" wines, but most of the wines are genuinely interesting and there has clearly been a lot of thought put into the list. It also goes nicely with the menu, which is something that is often overlooked. The slightly Asian-infused tapas are excellent and the pricing structure offers something for everyone. The sliders are excellent and it's hard not to love a bar that stocks the consistently brilliant Clearview Reserve Chardonnay to wash it all down with.
Overall, then, a little triumph of a bar; smart enough to offer a sense of occasion while managing to be laid-back enough to deserve the description "local" in the title. Just don't knock off work too early.