Originally posted at Auckland Scene
When do you know this bar thing is getting out of hand? When you order a drink at on a Monday night (on the night in question, a semi-traditional Whiskey-Mac with equal parts Irish Whiskey and ginger wine over ice with lemon, no mixer) and the bartender looks at you, smiles, winks, then says “Ah, hospo – right?”
Mondays, otherwise affectionately known as “hospo night” (when a lot of local bars and eateries take a well-deserved day off) is a strange time of the week to be reviewing a bar, but hey – for the Bar Scene Babe, anything goes.
Now, I know you’re all dying to hear about the tastebud challenge game I’ve been playing with my favourite bartender lately – but the raspberry marshmellow dreamdrop and the chocolate licorice bullet sazerac will just have to wait because it’s Monday and we’re on Ponsonby Road, chasing down a nostalgic open mic night.
Grand Central is in fact, the longest established bar on the Ponsonby Road strip. Music every night of the week, from open mic acoustic sets to DJs later in the week. The bar is small, efficient and the staff are friendly. Pamela has a good handle on the characters, most of them regulars signing up for their 4 song sets and was unfazed in making my laidback version of a Whiskey-Mac. Good sign.
If I was in the States, I could call Grand Central a dive bar and no-one would be offended. What it really means is a little bit of everything traditional. There’s an ample selection of your favourite spirits but nothing too out of the ordinary, no major cocktail list to speak of but the specials are Irish-themed, no doubt left over from St Patricks Day. Do you get my drift? Although points on the board – they carry my pick of decent bourbons & a few decent whiskies, as well as the full Finlandia range if vodka is your thing.
Good beers, reasonable prices and a tinge of seventies everywhere you look. Especially if you look up, there’s a disco ball just to remind you it’s not all soulful singer/songwriters in here. If you remember the good old days of the Java Jive down in Three Lamps, open mic nights in Ponsonby are something of legend, forever associated with a little blues, jazz and Crowded House classics. Plus, performers get 2 for 1 drinks. Dutch courage and all that!
To be fair, the talent on offer is decent enough to make Grand Central a great place to stopover before or after a quick burger dash (Murder Burger & Burger Fuel are both in the vicinity and you can happily eat at the bar). There are enough seats outside, in the back and side rooms to give you a quiet wee corner or put yourself in the thick of the action at the bar.
The later in the week it gets, the busier Grand Central is, but the blackboard inside gives you a great heads up on which night to pop in depending on your music taste. So get out there and give it a go – open mic night, it’s a Ponsonby tradition.
Grand Central, Ponsonby 126 Ponsonby Rd, Ponsonby www.grandcentral.net.nz