When the Golden Dawn opened in December, there was much talk around town. For some of the young bartenders around town it was the place to work with Jacob Briars aka The Vodka Professor compiling a stunning drinks list and backbar selection of spirits.
And despite the flurry of new bars in Britomart, there are some things that just work, especially on Ponsonby Rd, no doubt thanks to the input of Sam Chapman (think Matterhorn, one of Wellington’s best bars), and Stephen Marr (hairdresser) and one of The Department Store brainstrust.
Righto – to the point, here’s what everyone else loves about Golden Dawn.
- The name. It’s a bit cheeky and while it’s the best time of the day to be drinking – let’s be honest, on Ponsonby Rd it could mean just about anything.
- It’s big enough to be flexible, find a quiet corner or dance to DJs in the packed out Friday & Saturday night scene.
- The hard-to-find, speak-easy entrance. It might look closed but pop your head around the corner, follow the light and noise from the outdoor courtyard. A little bit of mystery, woos the punters.
- That outdoor courtyard with coloured festoons strung from a maypole and long tables for sharing, it really does give you that New Orleans/county fair feeling.
We arrived later in the night (after a cognac tasting!) on a Wednesday and after a Hallertau #2, the boys stayed on the beer but I moved uptown to a Manhattan. It can be made sweet, perfect or dry, depending on the type of vermouth used. I prefer mine dry with a twist and was disappointed not be to asked my preference, even more disappointed when the bitters (aka essential cocktail ingredient) were omitted altogether (gasp, horror, shock!). Saving grace for the Dawn? The traditional sweet Manhattan comes with Maraschino cherries as a garnish, which on this occasion made all things forgivable with their syrupy, spicy, clove-y deliciousness at the end of the drink.
If you remember the venue in it’s former Open Late Café glory… the outdoor courtyard will seem familiar yet different, but the bathrooms remain equally hard to find! Follow the glowing orange light behind the outdoor bar and eventually you’ll see them, but there’s no signage. Thankfully you’re not following your nose!
The crowd is eclectic just like a Ponsonby bar should be, with bohemian artists and students trying to bum a roll-your-own from us, just as the post 40s crowd turned up after dinner in their droves, dealt with expediently by the 4 or 5 young bartenders working the extensive backbar.
Here’s what I love about Golden Dawn:
- The menu is more than your regular bar snacks, meaning you can make the most of the courtyard and the late afternoon sun right through to the wee small hours.
- The Punch! Another revived classic courtesy of Briars & made different each day depending on the mood. Bought by the glass, it’s a tradition you’ll start to see more and more of.
- The Hallertau on tap. If you can’t drag yourself out west to the actual brewery, this is almost as good.
Supposedly, this is a pop-up bar but whether or not the Dawn closes the door after the Rugby World Cup remains to be seen. After all, it’ll be just about time for another season of summer punches about then!
Golden Dawn, 134 Ponsonby Road, Ponsonby, open Tuesday – Saturday
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