We review the entire country and culture of New Zealand, one thing at a time. Today: Sam Brooks on his favourite bowling-alley-in-a-multiplex-bar, Metrolanes.
“Where are the dive bars in Auckland?”
A visitor to this fair city asked me that recently. I assumed by dive bar they meant ‘an empty bar with cheap alcohol’ rather than a genuine Road House-type dive bar, but I was at a loss. We were going to a show that night and we couldn’t really afford the Uber out to the Cross Tavern in Papakura. That’s a very fine South Auckland dive bar, by the way. I went there on the morning of my mother’s funeral and they had run out of Coke, Diet Coke and Sprite.
I remembered that the bowling alley in the cinema had a bar. Why don’t we go there? We walked in and were transported immediately. It was lit like a Tuesday afternoon stripclub; it had the soundtrack of a rural school’s disco and the clientele of a kebab shop at 3am.
Reader, I fell in love with Metrolanes.
There are two reasons you go to the bar at Metrolanes initially. One, it’s cheap as hell. Two, the novelty of it. It’s drinking in a bowling alley! But there are so many more reasons why you stay.
The main reason is the view. Sure, when you walk into Metrolanes you think you’re just in a dimly lit bowling alley with a few precariously placed pool tables, some B-grade late-90s arcade machine and a mixture of hyperactive teenagers and exhausted office workers. But if you look a bit deeper (read: outside), you can make your way out onto a balcony.
Nowhere else in Auckland can you get that tranquil view over Aotea Square. It’s a view that many CBD restaurants would kill for, and it’s right there at Metrolanes of all places. You can sit under the heaters and the sickly bright LED lights and feel like you’re sitting in your own dull sequel to Drive. At the right time of night it feels like the end of the world. The square is empty, the balcony is empty, and it’s just you, your companions and the $29 bottle of wine you all chipped in on sitting in a lukewarm bucket of water.
It’s also the ideal place to cheer on courting couples who for whatever reason have decided to stop in Aotea Square.
Another reason? The food. Now, should you get your food from a bowling alley in a multiplex? Who can say! None of us should start throwing stones. For $8 you get the biggest bowl of chips I have encountered outside of a beach wedding. For $22 you get a really nice pizza, and I think there are vegetarian options. You can even get karaage chicken, if you want to get your fried chicken in the same place where you buy your wine. See above re: not judging.
Hot tip: Do not get the cocktails. I tried a few, determined to find one that suited my tastes, and most of them tasted like syrup with alcohol. I tried the Long Island Iced Tea and I swear I could taste spirits that weren’t even meant to be in that sinful, sinful cocktail. To bastardise a TLC lyric: don’t go chasing waterfalls, stick to the $29 pinot gris that you’re used to.
Then there’s the music! I’m not sure what channel is playing on the screens and speakers, but it’s the only place I’ve encountered Enrique Iglesias songs from the 90s, your most generic country music from today, and classic rock songs from the 80s. Does it come straight from hell? Again, who can say. Such is the mystery of the bowling alley dive bar.
A cheap place to drink in the CBD is hard to find at the best of times, but a cheap place to drink with a nice view and a chill vibe is rare indeed. Metrolanes has these qualities in spades. Will it be making the Metro Top 50 anytime soon? God, I hope not. But if you’ve got an hour to kill before a show and want to chill out, Metrolanes is your spot.
It also has bowling, apparently, if you’re into throwing balls at things for arbitrary points.
– Sam Brooks
Verdict: None of this is ironic! Irony is basically lying, but with a funny hat on. I love Metrolanes. I go here as much as I can, and I recommend that you all do the same because the place deserves to live on forever.
Good or bad: Good.
The Spinoff Auckland is sponsored by Heart of the City, the business association dedicated to the growth of downtown Auckland as a vibrant centre for entertainment, retail, hospitality and business.