Kiwi bars be­long among the best

Marlborough Express - - FOOD - JANAN JAY

When it comes to hos­pi­tal­ity awards, The World’s 50 Best Bars is one of the most sought af­ter. The Miche­lin star of drinks, it’s usu­ally dom­i­nated by the likes of Lon­don and New York. The 2017 list, re­leased this month, is no dif­fer­ent.

How­ever, Hos­pi­tal­ity New Zealand CEO Vicki Lee, says the bar scene here has a lot to of­fer on the in­ter­na­tional stage.

‘‘We are a global mar­ket now and peo­ple do see what’s go­ing on over­seas,’’ she says. ‘‘That ei­ther gets brought back to NZ through cus­tomers’ ex­pec­ta­tions, or op­er­a­tors com­ing come back from in­dus­try events fired up about the next new thing.

‘‘It’s not un­usual to see bars get­ting reg­u­lar facelifts or even com­plete re­fits ev­ery three to five years to en­sure they re­main on trend.’’

This year the top spot on the World’s 50 Best Bars was claimed by Amer­i­can Bar at Lon­don’s Savoy Ho­tel, where one drink will set you back at least £20 ($37).

Jeremy Smith, man­ag­ing di­rec­tor of the Trin­ity group, be­lieves that NZ can not only com­pete amongst the world’s best but we also of­fer bet­ter value for money.

‘‘I think we cre­ate an ex­pe­ri­ence that might not be that su­per so­phis­ti­cated, but it’s qual­ity. It’s got that ‘wow fac­tor’ with­out be­ing over the top, and you won’t be pay­ing $35 for a cock­tail.

‘‘For ex­am­ple, at Lit­tle Black­wood in Queen­stown, the staff were su­per knowl­edge­able. You go to Hawthorn Lounge in Welling­ton – the ex­pe­ri­ence is beau­ti­ful. Ev­ery­thing. Very warm, very friendly.

‘‘Clas­sic Kiwi hos­pi­tal­ity is when we get each of those ‘wow touch­points’ right – that when you walk in, ‘wow this place is good’. It’s the right tem­per­a­ture, the mu­sic’s right, the drinks that I get are great.

‘‘It’s that warmth and that feel­ing of ‘wel­come to my home’ ex­pe­ri­ence that we’re re­ally good at de­liv­er­ing.’’

Be­ing a small na­tion can also work to our ad­van­tage, as Smith ex­plains the mar­ket breeds qual­ity and in­no­va­tion.

‘‘I know it’s mas­sively com­pet­i­tive. When the gov­ern­ment made it eas­ier to get a liquor li­cence, num­bers grew sig­nif­i­cantly so there’s a lot of com­pe­ti­tion, but there’s also a lot of co-op­er­a­tion be­tween bar own­ers.

‘‘We’re able to share ideas. We’re able to lift our stan­dards... and re­mem­ber be­cause it’s a smaller coun­try, smaller mar­kets, we need to adapt to change very quickly.

He says that be­cause New Zealand is tucked away in a cor­ner of the world, peo­ple tend to think the ‘‘rest of the world is bet­ter than us, so we’ve got to work harder to stay ahead of the game’’.

Peter G Lowry, man­ager at Welling­ton’s Li­brary Bar, agrees prox­im­ity plays a part.

‘‘We are re­ally far away from the rest of the world and so we have to be friendly and con­sis­tent to re­tain our cus­tomers.

‘‘There is a pas­sion for qual­ity prod­ucts. A true sense of in­ven­tion and a keen un­der­stand­ing of sea­son­al­ity.’’

Lowry says New Zealan­ders love to talk about food and this keeps the in­dus­try in­spired.

Smith agrees that Ki­wis are more dis­cern­ing when it comes to the qual­ity of their food. Now, he says, even the most hum­ble of es­tab­lish­ments needs a strong menu us­ing the best pro­duce it can.

For the World’s Best list, the process for de­cid­ing which bars are wor­thy in­volves 505 vot­ers, from 55 coun­tries.

Th­ese king­mak­ers are a mix of drinks ex­perts, in­clud­ing bar­tenders, bar man­agers, drinks con­sul­tants, brand am­bas­sadors, drinks writ­ers, his­to­ri­ans and cock­tail afi­ciona­dos.

‘‘Around 30 of those vot­ers are from Aus­trala­sia so you would have hoped New Zealand would have made it on the list some­where,’’ says Lee.

‘‘Putting the in­vite out there though, if any of the vot­ers are com­ing to New Zealand, let us know – we can cer­tainly point them in the right di­rec­tion of great New Zealand bars.’’


Welling­ton’s Hawthorn Lounge is one of New Zealand’s best bars, ac­cord­ing to one ex­pert.

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