Winston Aldworth enjoys a drink in a hall of ambitious diplomacy.

There are certainly bars in New York that would be harder to get into, but few would have a door policy that includes scanning for bombs and guns and handing over passports.

But the arrival protocol was always going to be a bit different at the Delegates Lounge, the house bar of the United Nations' headquarters in New York.

While we were drinking there last Monday, the business of making sure the nations stay united went on around us. Huddled delegates crowded around tables murmuring over their papers and nailing down the final points of the busy international bureaucrat's working day. A few had a beer or wine at hand, but a cardboard cup latte was more likely.

What sport to imagine the grand decisions being played out! In reality, it's more likely to have been purchasing orders for paper clips, than peace for the Middle East but, hey, it's cool to be drinking here anyway.


A handful of staff were settling in for brief post-work drinks, but the working stiffs, with their spreadsheets spread out, sucked the party life out of the UN building.

But it's on Friday night that the bar comes into its own. Staffers report that the world's diplomats test out their skills of negotiation and flattery on the UN's interns at Friday night drinks. (We were visiting a friend who works in the building. Tourists in New York can get into midweek lunch at the Delegates Lounge for $25.)

The beer at the UN Delegates Lounge costs about the same as the beer anywhere else in New York. They stock good local IPAs and lagers and wines from around the world.

We had a couple of the Captain's Kolsch, a fine New York-brewed lager from the Captain Lawrence Brewing Company. At US$5 for the bottle, it's good drinking at a decent price. But really, we're paying for the buzz of drinking at the seat of global power here (or global mismanagement, depending on your view).

During New Zealand's recent successful push for a Security Council spot, a canny staffer convinced the Delegates Lounge management to stock a decent Kiwi sav - so 3 Brooms Sauvignon Blanc 2012, from Marlborough, is there, lubricating the wheels of Friday night diplomacy. A glass will cost you US$10.

During the heady rush for Security Council spots, the competing nations would send interns to hold spots in the Delegates Lounge so that senior staffers could whoosh in from the nearby debating halls for quick, informal chats with foreign diplomats. Keep the bar tab running, mate - this may take some time.

The UN buildings went up in 1951, the plaything of the world's greatest architects - Le Corbusier, Oscar Niemeyer and Wallace K. Harrison are all in there. A large-scale renovation project was launched in 2009, and over the years different countries have stepped forward to smarten up different parts of the complex. There's an unprepossessing and much walked-past wall of Kiwi rimu. As part of the 2009 rejig, the Dutch had the courage to pay for the bar.

During our visit, a large beaded curtain blocked views of the East River. Computer kiosks down the side which no doubt add to the midweek buzz, brought an unfortunate internet-cafe vibe.


The business of the world goes on.

Getting there: Air New Zealand flies twice daily from Auckland to LA, increasing to three from December to March.

Further information: To make a booking at the Delegates Lounge, click here.