27 Galway St, Auckland
- late, Wed - Sat
09 551 3100
The last time I visited 1885 to review it, it didn't end well. I was ignored by the bartender until he'd finished serving anyone who was younger, more stylish or simply more female than I, and then he ignored me a little more while he talked to his mates. I think it was some kind of dominance thing.
Then, of course, he massively overcharged me, leaving me with only one option: the early exit.
That was a while ago now, so I thought it was time to give it another crack. After all, I'd been to a few events at 1885 in a professional capacity, and I'd noticed a marked change in the place.
It still looks the same. The main bar upstairs is still a large, but comfortable space; the terrace bar (or Martini bar, as they refer to it) is a more intimate spot for smaller gatherings and the basement bar still retains that sense of wickedness you get in a windowless, dimly lit, subterranean bar.
The cocktails are very much the same, too; that is to say they are well-constructed, well-mixed and well-presented. The wine list is excellent, with plenty of choice and variety on offer and the beer is well kept, too.
The food is great, again offering variety and choice on both levels - food and price.
So what's changed? The service. The service at 1885 is now so uniformly excellent that you'd be forgiven for thinking you were attending a cocktail masterclass at Bartender University.
Not only is the service technically excellent - that is, the bartenders are happy to tweak existing recipes to suit, or even knock something out on the spot to match your mood - but it is socially excellent, too.
Not only do they look pleased to see you, they look happy to be at work, as well, which is altogether rarer. They look like they're having fun and getting into their work.
Polite, friendly and expert, I think someone has been busy either doing a lot of training or a lot of smart recruiting at 1885. Whichever one it is, it has made this bar an absolute pleasure to visit and one I'll be visiting a lot more often from now on.