When it comes to bars in Auckland, there are so many great establishments to choose from that picking one can become quite the ordeal. However, the suburb of Ponsonby is replete with so many fantastic options that you really can’t go wrong. Read our guide to the top 10 bars in this funky area of the big city.
Thirteen might be unlucky for some, but not for Chapel. Standing smack-bang in the middle of Ponsonby Road, this watering hole has been a favourite among the locals for over a decade. In fact, if any bar was to call itself “the local” in the Ponsonby area, it would have to be Chapel. It caters to all, whether you’re after a hearty gastropub meal, a few cocktails before dinner somewhere else, or if you fancy settling in for a proper session with your friends. This has probably been the key to this bar’s success. Whatever mood you’re in, you will feel right at home here.
The girls and boys at Bedford Soda & Liquor, and the cocktails that they produce, have become the bar that every other cocktail bar in Auckland are now measured against. They take their inspiration from the American beverage scene, and have such O.T.T cocktails the Americans would be proud to call their own. An example of this is the ridiculously decadent, alcoholic house caramel shake they whip up. It’s constructed with salted caramel, Maltesers, Johnnie Walker Black whiskey, and finished off with a sprinkling of crushed Maltesers. Try going for a jog after one of those.
This is such a Ponsonby institution that we just had to include it. Mea Culpa has been on the radar of all of Auckland’s cocktail aficionados for many years now, and slides smoothly into any list that is compiled on the city’s best cocktail haunts. Everything is hand-made here, including the hand-pressed fruits and garnishes that are purchased from local suppliers. This joint has been ticking along for a good while in a cut-throat industry and that tells you they’re consistently amazing when it comes to mixing up a bit of an alcoholic restorative, and their menu is always changing to accommodate the mercurial tastes of the consumer. This is probably your safest pick when it comes to wrapping yourself around the outside of an excellent snifter. In the event all that drinking does make you hungry, they also have a fantastic selection of cheeseboards to peruse and nibble on.
Ponsonby Social Club is oozing with all things cool and chic. The venue effortlessly offers a great party ambiance to Ponsonby’s upmarket bar and restaurant scene. From Wednesday until Sunday there’s a strong offering of local and international DJs spinning some of the freshest beats. The place deservedly gets quite busy, so arrive early and grab a couple of drinks before dancing up a storm.
This Ponsonby gastropub has always been good to sports spectators – but after a facelift in 2014, it became even better. A great selection of food and craft beers adds to The Cav’s appeal. There’s a big screen indoors and smaller ones out the back deck for patrons wanting to support their team from as close as possible. Call in advance to book a table or come in early as this place, deservedly, gets quite busy.
How refreshing to have a bar in Ponsonby that doesn’t have even a whiff of pretentiousness about it. Harry is a tiny, fun place. The sort of place you go on a Sunday to enjoy a little bit of karaoke. They also have trivial pursuit during the week where, if you outsmart the owner Olly, you can win yourself a free drink. These drinks are of a pretty standard variety (think Dark ‘n’ Stormy and the like) but that’s not to say they aren’t delish. You can also catch interesting locals speaking here, one of whom is the current prime minister, Jacinda Ardern! You never know what you’ll get at Harry.
If you’re looking for that cosy after-work spot for your mid-week beer, then Bonita could very well be the place you’ve been searching for. It’s nice and relaxing in the dimly lit interior. The music is chilled out and all in all it’s a great place to just kick back and forget about whatever was stressing you out that day. If you’re after somewhere to take someone on a laid-back date, Bonita’s vibe and the clientele it attracts are sure to tick that box.
The pretentiousness that can occasionally be found in Ponsonby can be a bit tiresome. If that’s not really your scene, you might be inclined to look for something a bit more low-key. That’s where Freeman & Grey comes in. Here you can find simple, great pizzas, local Kiwi wine and a choice of delicious tap beers and classic cocktails. The wines are mostly from Marlborough, but here are a couple of reds that are absolute rippers and come from the east coast of the North Island. Head in and try them for yourself.
Ponsonby is perhaps the hub of all things quirky and cool in Auckland, and there’s a plethora of unique cocktail bars in the area. If you want a little ray of Vegas to shine down into your life for an evening, then your one and only stop should be Win-Win Bar. Here you can explore a myriad of alcoholic delights, including the very sexy and seductive sounding Lemon Mirage. The sky is the limit here, as the bartenders have an encyclopaedic knowledge of all things boozy and drinkable. If you somehow have something up your sleeve that they haven’t heard of before or have made up, then they’ll usually be happy to whip it up for you.
The Whiskey is exactly the sort of bar that you hope it will be and imagine to be when you hear the name. All dark wood and low lighting and rock music, this is a bar with a bit of theatre to it. As you’d expect from a bar that prides itself on playing only rock music, there is live music here through the week. There are some great little nooks and crannies where you can hide yourself away and sip on your dram with your mates. If you want to try something a little different, then head to The Whiskey after dark.