The first pub I drank in regularly in Auckland was the Shakespeare Tavern.
Handily located a minute's climb from Queen St, it was a lovely place to while away a few hours on the balcony overlooking the intersection of Wyndham and Albert streets. And to top it off, it brewed its own beer.
The upstairs bar was usually humming with conversation, music and the merry clink of glassware. Downstairs, the place was full of grim-faced Herald staffers muttering darkly about the sports pages.
These days, it is a desert. Not dry, perhaps, but fairly unfertile ground for a good night out.
The downstairs bar smelled like a tramp's overcoat when I visited and the beer selection was distinctly underwhelming - some of the Monteith's range bolstered by Tui and Export Gold. That's not a criticism in itself, but when compared to the pub's past glories, it's pretty thin fare.
The wine list was similarly uninspired, although the food is still reasonable and the jukebox is great.
Sadly, they aren't enough to rescue this once-great venue. The toilets leave a fair bit to the imagination (especially the upstairs gents), and while the service was proficient downstairs, upstairs it varied between disinterested and surly.
What struck me most about the Shakes was how far it had fallen. Sure, it's more of a backpackers' now, but such a glorious building needs a decent pub inside it.
The man it is named after wrote in Henry V: "I would give all my fame for a pot of ale ..."
I don't think he'd make the Shakespeare Tavern his first port of call.