Review – Cassette Nine.

Generosity within hospitality means something more than standard definitions. It’s not simply brought about in the form of charity case handouts because you “forgot” your wallet/money/dignity. Nor is it used in false pretense to acquire an allegiance from patrons to encourage their return. When hospitality hands you a silver spoon (like free food/alcohol), you take it and you appreciate it.


My friend Heather and I had been walking around the perimeters of central Auckland looking to get some food into us after a long mental work out at the St Paul St symposium. Down Vulcan Lane we saw a wonderfully designed vintage-type-movie-poster-esque menu, the keywords ‘burger’ and ‘teapot’ on it took our fancies, and up the stairs we climbed.


Here is where we discovered Cassette Nine.


We were greeted at the top by a gentleman behind the bar, who flashed his dashing smile and directed us to a table that faced the dance floor and stage (this was to become a terrific location later on). He left us with some menus and said he’ll be right back. About three minutes later he was back, but alas, Heather and I were still debating the merits of chicken and onion rings. He said it was no trouble and he’d return again soon.


Unfortunately this ‘soon’ extended into over a quarter of an hour. Now to myself, this isn’t a long time. I’ve been to high-end restaurants where the wait between each course was in the 45-minute range, so I’m not using the word unfortunately from my position, rather from his. He returned behind the bar after being absent from sight, to which I caught his attention and he came rushing over. For our supposed days long wait (yes this is over-emphasised) he courteously offered us a free teapot as our supplement. Teapot drinks are, of course, awesome, and we unanimously agreed this was bad-ass of him.


Heather ordered a chicken burger (which came with the option of having the chicken breast deep fried, awwyeah) and I ordered their classic cheeseburger. Both were absolutely phenomenal (and ridiculously cheap for central Auckland prices). The onion ring side dish was crispy with a lovely aioli accompaniment, and we finished our meals at risk of stomach pains because leaving food feels like defeat and nothing tastes worse than defeat.


The bar started to become more occupied, and strange decorations started to appear. We quickly assumed a jungle theme night was to happen, because camo nets were hung from the ceiling. We were partly right; the facebook event we found online said ‘best dressed camo guest wins a prize’. What we also found was the pièce de résistance of the night: Electric Burlesque.


Free drink and now free burlesque, Cassette Nine you quickly placed in the top ten of bars I have ever visited. Seduction and fire dancing were not mentioned on the menu outside, but were quickly eaten up by the now largely packed crowd surrounding the stage, Heather and I still sitting in our now front row seats. We were given our receipt after the fire dancer’s performance, because the table was taking up too much space and they were transitioning from restaurant to nightclub. Looking at it we noticed one burger was $0.00. Now I can add free food to the list of free drink and entertainment.

A trifecta.

The Holy Grail of hospitality. 


Dashing gentleman wished us a pleasant evening, and we stumbled down the stairs with less grace than our approach only hours ago.


Walking back to our hotel we were on cloud nine, coincidentally the same number as our newly cherished establishment. Cassette Nine, please replay this magical night on my next visit.


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Review – Now You See Me.

Four magicians come together to perform, what appears to be, one of the world’s biggest ever heists. But the closer you focus on what you see, the faster you edge to the front of your seat, and the further away you get from the truth.


Magic and cinema go together like red wine and dark chocolate. The combination is simply magnificent. I think everyone can recall a moment when they were exposed to magic, be it from a children’s birthday party entertainer, a side street busker, or a dazzling hour-long theatric performance on a globally renowned stage. From whatever source, the effect remains the same. It leaves an imprint, somewhere inside you, reminding you that sometimes the art of trickery is not to deceive or disappoint, but to enact wonder and delight.


‘Now You See Me’ gathers a quick pace from the start and keeps its highly charged momentum going until the very end. Jesse Eisenberg delivers a decent performance as one of the magicians, and ultimately becomes the unofficial ‘leader’ of the group known as ‘The Four Horsemen’, which for me means more looking at Eisenberg (shameless swooning plug). Woodey Harrelson was a great choice for the role of the pseudo-science mentalist, and leaves verbal quips injecting the humouristic side of trickery at well-timed intervals.


Morgan Freeman and Michael Caine, two big hitting Hollywood actors, were rather underutilized however, which was a darn shame. I think this is because the director, Louis Leterrier, had two directions to choose from when trying to make a film about magic. The film could either focus one, on character development, or two, on plot development. Because it is about magic, I think his decision to focus on the plot (at the expense of lowering the impact of said Hollywood names) was ultimately for the best. The effects produced in the film, be they from the reality of illusions or the illusions of reality, made for a visually stunning story to unfold on the screen, and made me forgive Leterrier almost instantly.


I left the cinema with a warm satisfaction in my heart, my thoughts repeating ‘how did they do that?’ and the fire of magic rekindled. Which I think was the intended effect all along.


Well played film, I didn’t see that one coming.







Review – Coffee and food|establishment.

11:30am on a rainy Friday I met with a very dear friend at coffee and food establishment aka c.a.f.e (smart name, eh?) After scoring a free parking spot around the corner, I made my way into the cafe where my friend had already secured a two person table near the door.

It’s aesthetically clean, with a whitewash outdoor/indoor colour scheme. The highlights of colour are found in some large modern canvas pieces, which have fluro orange and green designs (they are supplied by artists and are for sale, some are new to me as I haven’t been to c.a.f.e in about one year). I especially enjoyed the charcoal grey/fluro orange collage inspired piece. On two low benches, near the front, are an array of newspapers and magazines available to read, so if you are an early bird to a meeting/catch-up, you can enjoy some articles and forgo the awkward solitary sitting.

The seating is a mix of booths and stand alone chairs, with a reasonable amount of space to walk between either (frequently I have seen mums and prams make their way in with little hassle). At the back is the kitchen and cashier, with a small display cabinet of your general muffins, paninis and mixed salads (though some of the muffins sounded quite exotic and were made to a reasonable size, noted for next time).

I ordered a long black, my friend ordered a cappuccino (you can choose cinnamon, chocolate, or both as your topping for that drink). Hers came in a relatively wide cup, mine came in a decidedly short one. One small plus was the little pitcher of hot water I received to top up my drink, so I gained an extra half cup on the side. The coffee bean used was alright, a rich earthen taste to it. After one sugar (raw, not white) it became quite easy to drink.

For food I ordered a half portion of ‘La Tuti Tuti’, a mix of potato, baby spinach, kranksy, chorizo, oil, and a poached egg on top. My friend ordered curly fries with tomato sauce and aioli as sauces. The half portion was rather small, but meat made the largest percentage of it, which I guess levels the cost. Slightly oilier than I anticipated, but the taste of each item of food was allowed to compliment the entirety of the dish. As to my friends dish, curly fries are always going to be more delicious than standard cut fries (the curl enhances the flavour, I swear). The curls trapped the flavoured salt in between its delicious potato outline, and the aioli provided was one of the best I have tried in Hamilton, not too runny and full of taste.

The service was absolutely charming, and provided an at exceptionally quick pace. I received my coffee in under three minutes and my meal in under ten. Genuine smiles and small banter were provided for free.

If you’re looking for a relaxed part run-of-the-mill cafe, part quirky vibrant establishment, to compliment a dull grey Hamilton day, I’d recommend perking yourself up at c.a.f.e for an hour or so.


Review – Wonder Horse.

First time writing a review, feedback is always appreciated =)

Hamilton is a very unusual city. It’s rather small, so if you have intimacy issues you probably shouldn’t move here. Because it is small everything gets smooshed together, which is very convenient when navigating the city centre, as you really don’t have to walk far for food. Side by side the main street is lined with little café’s, eateries, restaurants, bistros and so on. You name it, and chances are it’s next door. This can make dining out and socialising somewhat frustrating though, as it becomes hard to distinguish the good from the bad from the what the actual o_0

Tonight however, I was lead by my friend Jenna down a mysterious alley way and through a narrow doorway into what can only be summed up as a paradise land.

Its official name: Wonder Horse.

From past memory the site used to be an old Mexican joint which was notoriously hidden behind the first layer of restaurants (think alley-ception, to find gems in Hamilton you must always go deeper). Now it has been converted into a bar. But the word ‘bar’ tarnishes the true value this establishment has built for itself.

From walking in you are met with a dimly-lit, yet warm opening area. The large bar top nestling against your left side bends around to guide you across the width of the room.  Deeper in you notice leatheresque couches, each with a small table or two in bright colours of aqua and red. There is also an upstairs area, though it sounded rather full and convinced us to stay downstairs (near the bar, naturally). Overall first impressions are ‘this is a place many call home’ because the construction holds such dignity worthy of that title. Gazing to the front you then see the vast array of alcoholic ingredients filling the shelves, everything from absinthe to zambuca (well, it feels like it, though I will happily report there is a very liberal supply of whiskey). I say ingredients, because what the gentlemen behind the bar accomplished is less drink making and more Heston Blumenthal inspired magic (if you don’t know HB then please direct your attention to this Wiki article – ).

Jenna ordered a Mojito, and convinced me to order an Old Fashioned. Now I know of many people with their own interpretations of what constitutes an Old Fashioned, but to be honest if the drink respects the whiskey involved, then it’s okay in my books. We settled onto some squared bar stools and watched our gentleman/bartender twirl his enchantingly long spoon, beginning the initiation process.

Nothing was flawed.

The glasses were brilliantly balanced, the alcohol generously measured, the sugar lovingly heaped, the mint clapped gently (no hurting the poor leaves now). Even the ice received special treatment inside a hand-cranked crusher that churned out delightfully small, rounded ice pieces. The prices are very generous considering the showmanship that goes into every artwork. It genuinely feels like the drink you receive underwent a transformation, from mere mortal alcohol to liquid infinite passion. The emotions infused send you into a euphoric state impervious to social blunders.

These drinks don’t just start small talk, they infuse conversations.

Universe, if I were so lucky to acquire a date in the next five weeks, I promise to treat them to this magnificent establishment. It is the perfect place for getting together, getting cozy, getting intimate.

Wonder Horse, you win the title of ‘Hamilton’s best bar’ by a full length, from now on I place my bets on you.