Pub spy: Bellini bar at Hilton Auckland, Princes Wharf

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Daniel Burstein, food and beverage manager at the Hilton Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring
Daniel Burstein, food and beverage manager at the Hilton Auckland. Photo / Doug Sherring

Hours: Open seven days 9am-late,
Ph: (09) 978 2025,
Web: www.bellini.co.nz


For all the joys of small, tucked-away dive bars that suggest late nights and dark pleasures, there is something ineffably classy about a good hotel bar.

Maybe it's all those James Bond films, where the suave spy plays nerveless games of roulette or baccarat amid the twinkling of chandeliers, diamonds and high-gloss lipstick, but I've always had a weakness for a well-turned-out hotel bar.

And maybe it's because so many hotel bars are soulless sinks of moral desperation, tacked on like an afterthought.

So, the joy of finding a good hotel bar is overwhelming, but finding a great one is hard to describe.

I'm not saying Bellini is a great hotel bar. It will never be the Sky bar in the Traders Hotel in Kuala Lumpur, or the Long Bar at The Raffles, but perched as it is overlooking the harbour, it's a good starting point.

It looks gorgeous, with a central bar, allowing for plenty of viewing space from the customer seating. The service is good, too, with attentive and friendly staff who are willing to go off-piste if necessary to satisfy a customer's needs.

The cocktail list is exceptional, given it is merely a guideline; the staff are happy to make drinks to order, which is always a good sign. The spirit selection is very good for a hotel bar and deeper and broader than you'd expect - 40-odd whiskies cover most taste bases pretty comprehensively.

Sadly, the beer selection is a little light on interest for anyone who has outgrown international lager and the wine list could offer a little more oomph and a few less supermarket brands, although it is redeemed somewhat by the Champagne selection, which covers the usual bases and adds in classics such as Krug and Taittinger.

The food menu is pretty impressive, if a little pricey, but the range of grub available is heart-warming and prepared to a high standard. And if you do baulk at shelling out for a meal, your waiter will bring bowls of complimentary nibbles to your table. (Well, I think they were complimentary - I certainly didn't pay for them.)

Overall, then, it's not quite Casino Royale, but it is a step up in class and a great spot for a special night out, sipping something sophisticated as the last of the light fades out across the harbour.

Scores

Service: 4
Menu: 4
Drink: 3
Atmosphere: 4
Overall: 4

- Herald on Sunday

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