Cassels & Sons’ newest bar gets the once over (Tamlyn Stewart in Avenues); A City Oasis – If anyone knows about overcoming hurdles, it’s the Cassels family. The site of the CBD Bar, which opened in August, has been earmarked in the central city plan as the eventual site of the city’s new sports stadium.
There was also a delay in getting a liquor licence, but the family persevered and the new bar has opened its doors.
Our plan is to arrive in time to catch the tail-end of the CBD Bar’s Humpday Happy Hours (from 4pm to 6pm) to indulge in $6 pints, but work gets in the way and we arrive closer to 8pm, after some dispute about where best to park. Once we squeeze into a space outside the NG building on Madras St and walk into the CBD Bar, we realise there are actually plenty of parking spaces in a vacant lot just off Tuam St.
It’s warm and rowdy and it feels like we’ve arrived late at a good party that’s well underway, so we head straight to the bar to order a couple of beers.
Just like the Cassels family’s other bar, The Brewery in Woolston, a range of Cassels and Sons’ craft beers – priced from $5, $6 or $7 a glass to about $9 a pint – are on tap. If you’re in the mood for wine or bubbles there are plenty of those, as well as several guest bottled beers.
A table opens up just as we’re ordering, and we move quickly to grab it. We feel, quite smugly, that we’re where it’s at. The dress code is an all-embracing mix of high-vis gear and work boots, suits and ties, student chic, and even stilettos and sequins.
Hubby samples his $11 (330ml) bottle of craft Tuatara pilsner. He describes it as “fruity” and eyes my $8 pint of best bitter with buyer’s remorse. I don’t give him much opportunity to share, as I glug mine down – it is delicious and disappears quickly.
A bright yellow paper menu offers persuasively detailed descriptions of Cassels’ craft beers and even suggests which wood-fired pizza to pair them with. The menu also offers pasta, prawns, mussels and oysters if you’re feeling a little bit fancy, salads and desserts. We order a Burnham pizza ($18) and burn ’em it does; its peppery pepperoni justifying more beer to cool the heat.
The CBD Bar’s long rectangular space has a deep burgundy wall and comfortable booths on one side and stand-alone tables along a wall of windows on the other. The view through the windows is a common Christchurch scene of a cleared site, some orange road cones and temporary fencing. CBD Bar is saved from feeling like a roadside diner by the festive atmosphere inside. It feels like people are celebrating, and maybe they are – the opening of a bar that serves good food and beer, as well as some cheer, on the fringes of an otherwise rather bleak central city.
It’s a great place to come for a sense of life being breathed back into the city, or if you just need some life breathed back into you.
Where: 208 Madras St.
Prices: From reasonable to pricey, depending on your palate.