Pub Spy: Heart and soul of buzzing waterfront precinct

By Don Kavanagh

Soul Bar and Bistro, Viaduct Harbour
www.soulbar.co.nz

Soul Bar and Bistro was something of a triumph. Photo / Doug Sherring
Soul Bar and Bistro was something of a triumph. Photo / Doug Sherring

I'm not sure I like the idea of restaurants and bars getting their roles mixed up. I suppose it goes back to when I was growing up and bars were places you went to drink, while restaurants -- at least in my home town -- were places best avoided by anyone with a palate. And even when I moved to places where restaurants didn't come with formica tabletops and vinegar sprinklers, I still regarded bars as places to drink rather than eat.

Then, of course, I arrived in New Zealand, where the menu is often as big a drawcard in a bar as the tap beer selection and where no one gives a hoot about whether bars are places for eating or drinking; they're obviously places for both.

It gets even more confusing when places actually describe themselves as bar and restaurant, thereby stoking my residual existential angst about drinking in eateries and eating in drinkeries. But I have become something of a convert recently after a visit to Soul Bar and Bistro in the Viaduct.

It's a good example of how a restaurant can also have a functioning bar area without making it merely look like a place where you wait for your table. The bar area is big, bright and comfortable, with its own deck and a slightly looser atmosphere than the restaurant part.

The beer is pretty mainstream, this being a Lion-dominated bar, but it does have a couple of Emerson's beers for the enthusiasts. The cocktail list is great and the spirit selection is top-notch, too.

It comes into its own with the wine list, which should bring joy to anyone who ever enjoyed the sound of a cork popping. With some 90 wines on the list -- and 30 of them available by the glass -- there is something for everyone.

I should probably leave any description of the food to more competent food critics than I but, from my own humble point of view, the standard began at excellent and just went up from there. Really, they had me at "oysters".

The service was excellent, too, friendly and professional and engaging, which was nice to see. I've found some supercilious idiots working at the higher dining levels, so it was great to find such natural good humour among the staff.

All in all, then, it was something of a triumph. Not that anyone needs me to tell them that; the number of people enjoying themselves there on a grim, cold weekend was testament to the excellence on offer. Long may it continue.

Scores

Service: 5
Food: 5
Drink: 5
Atmosphere: 5

Overall: 5

- Herald on Sunday

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