Auckland's 5 best champagne bars

by Shane Boocock

“I drink it when I’m happy and when I’m sad. Sometimes I drink it when I’m alone. When I have company I consider it obligatory. I trifle with it when I’m not hungry and drink it when I am. Otherwise I never touch it, unless I am thirsty” – Madame Lily Bollinger

Beginning in the year 898 and up until the year 1825, the kings of France were crowned in Rheims, in the heart of the world famous Champagne region. During the accompanying festivities, Champagne flowed freely. However, it wasn’t until the 12th Century onwards that Champagne’s fame grew, becoming the choice of nobility, the rich and important, and accepted as the wine for celebrations.

In the last two hundred years, Champagne wines have shaped the art of fine living in France and been appreciated around the world. Champagne nowadays is popped to celebrate sporting triumphs, the signing of contracts, the launching of ships, at anniversaries and weddings and for no other reason than that it makes you feel special.??To start with, it’s all in the packaging; the curve of the shoulder, the long neck with its collar, the shapely cork, the wire cage, the elegant label.

Let’s face it, the Champagne bottle has an appearance all its own. Its glass is thick to allow the birth of the bubbles to take place without any risk, and it’s dark to protect the wine from the light. I’ve already started thinking about warm, cosy places in winter to hang out and drink Champagne – let’s get our priorities in order here – essential things in life, like South Pacific Island holidays or skiing trips, are usually next on the list.

So here are a few favourite Champagne hangouts to try this winter in Downtown establishments.

Stark’s is a little pearl of a bar cemented on the corner under the Civic Theatre. What a great place to order champers just before the start of a new show – talk about putting you in the mood. The bar is small and intimate, with a good selection of French Champagne starting with a Taittinger Brut Reserve at $145 a bottle; or for a petite sip they offer Piper Heidsieck for $47 in a 200ml piccolo. Otherwise, treat yourself to a Marie Antoinette: 30ml of strawberry liqueur and two squeezes of lemon topped with Lanson Champagne for about $16 a glass.

Bubble is tucked away in a sliver of space in the Viaduct – it’s not even shaped like a bubble but it is of the effervescent type! This is a Champagne bar therefore it’s decadent. There are over a dozen choices that line the back shelves so pick wisely. It’s a cosy, snuggle-up and relaxing space that has a few discrete seats to sip Champagne from flutes. As you’d expect, it has padded wall surrounds and soft satin colours – how do you contrive purple, gold and red into a colour scheme? So remember this place if you need to impress your loved one. Expect to blow $395 for a Perrier Jouët Belle Epoque Rose. Alternatively spend $109 for a bottle of Mumm, or $19.50 a glass and enjoy the moment – at least until the next stock market crash.

Pasha Lounge Bar is located in a lovely spot on Princes Wharf, an oasis to relax and unwind with friends right on the water, and famous for its Persian surrounds and elaborate Middle Eastern styling. Pasha is also renowned for its cocktails and was nominated Bar of the Year in 2008. If you want to mix and mingle, sit in the sheltered area outside by the harbour or, for a more romantic space, sit in the private satin covered areas – each with its own Bedouin feel. They serve Pol Roger Brut Reserve for $160.00 or choose a Veuve Clicquot Yellow Label at $150.00 a bottle. Otherwise sip on a Nicolas Feuillatte at $24.00 a glass.

The Office Bar – Westin Hotel, designed by top interior designer Tom Skyring, has a moody, retro-chic look that makes it a great social meeting place, especially right after work. It’s both stylish and sophisticated with its dark-wood panelling. You can watch the foot traffic in this corner of the Viaduct at tables alongside full length windows, or be more private while enjoying the full buzz of the bar in one of the two circular, ‘mock-crocodile’ clad booths which are very ‘Austin Powers’! Order a bottle of Krug Grand Cuvee at $450.00 or a glass of Perrier Jouët Grand Brut for $28.

Winery Lobby Bar at the Langham Hotel, on the fringe of the city centre, epitomises five-star luxury, offering immaculate and decidedly decadent facilities with its impressively large chandeliers. Sit back in one of their leather wing-back chairs and it’s easy to imagine you’re lounging in a one of those gentleman’s clubs in London with a flute in hand. Try their Laurent-Perrier Brut NV France for $185.00 a bottle.??One of these days I’ll win lotto and drink bubbles accompanied by caviar on blinis for breakfast … and perhaps lunch and dinner. Champagne and decadence, it seems, really do go together well.

FACTS:
Stark’s, 269 Queen street, Auckland, t: (09) 377 0277, open Mon – Fri 7.30am-late, Sat and Sun 1pm-late
Bubble Champagne and Cocktail Bar, 14a Watermark Plaza, Viaduct Basin, Auckland, t: (09) 358 2800, open daily 12pm – 2am
Pasha Lounge Bar, Shed 22, Princes Wharf, t: (0)9 355 0077, open daily 4pm until late
The Office Bar – Westin Hotel Lighter Quay, 21 Viaduct Harbour Ave, Auckland 1010, t: (09) 909 9000, open Mon-Sat 2pm-12pm, Sunday 3pm-12pm
Winery Lobby Bar – Langham Hotel, 83 Symonds Street, Auckland, t: (0)9 379 5132, open daily from 7am