Rimutaka MP Chris Hipkins at the Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club
This place is a bit like the Cheers bar. You wander in here and everyone knows your name. I try to come here at least once a month, although I've been coming here a bit more than that lately. I usually start at the RSA table, and wander around and chat to people. They'll tell me if they've seen me on television that week, because I sit behind [Labour leader] David Shearer in the debating chamber. They'll say things like, "You smile too much", or "You looked like you were half asleep".
I don't like pushing politics down people's throats, and they're often just curious about what I do and what goes on at Parliament. Last Friday night, everyone out here was talking about John Banks, and it's those sorts of issues that everyone wants to chat about.
There are 7000 members which, when you think there are 34,000 people in Upper Hutt, that's a big number. It's like an amalgam of the typical RSA crowd and a workingmen's club, along with some younger business owners in Upper Hutt.
You get a whole mix of ages, and on a Friday night, the place changes over the evening. At 4.30pm, the RSA table will be full and the ode happens at 6pm, and I like to be here for that as it's part of the tradition. The younger crowd will come in about 9.30pm and load up before they go into town. The drinks are pretty cheap - it's about $4.50 for a handle, and you can also buy a good bottle of wine for under $25.
I took David Shearer in here earlier in the year, when Mary Fisher was having her sendoff before she went to the Paralympics. Phil Goff came out here with me once too, when he was Labour leader, and it was a Wednesday night when the jackpot draw was happening so the place was packed. There had been a lot of redundancies around the defence force, so everyone was talking about that, and we ended up staying there longer than we had intended.
I joined the club a few years ago, before I got into Parliament, because it was very much part of the local community. Until the end of last year, I used to come most Tuesday nights for quiz night. My quiz team got busy with other things though, but on those nights, we'd usually have a nice bottle of wine rather than beer, which is what I'd typically drink when I come out here. But I did find that it was a great way to meet the local community.
There's a restaurant here, and function rooms, and in the restaurant you can pay $12 to $14 for a decent-sized roast meal. If I'm with people, we'll go and have a meal, but if I come by myself and stay in the bar, I'll grab some bar snacks, like a pizza or wedges.
I live in Upper Hutt and there are a few other places I like to go out this way. The main street is exploding with cafes and restaurants. The Buttercup Bakery is pretty good, they do a nice macaroni and lasagne, and it's homemade as opposed to mass-produced. If I'm driving through the electorate, which is pretty big, I'll also stop at The Fig Tree on Fergusson Dr. It's an old church converted into a cafe which has great food.
When I'm at Parliament, I tend to go anywhere that's in five minutes walking distance. The food at Parliament isn't that flash. I'll get myself a Wishbone meal or something and bring it back here to eat it.
I love to cook but I don't have much time for that. I live by myself and it seems like a waste of time to cook for myself. I have a big vege garden and a herb garden. I can do a million different things on the barbecue. A favourite is barbecuing marinated steaks. I'm a huge fan of Italian food and I like cooking that too.
I'm actually coming out here tonight [Monday] because the Cossie Club is looking at establishing a community house in Upper Hutt, which will be a hub for social services. The club makes a lot of money out of pokie machines so it's a way of giving something back to the community.
As told to Sarah Catherall.
Upper Hutt Cosmopolitan Club, 11 Logan St, Upper Hutt. Phone: 04 529 0009. Hours: Sunday 9am to 9pm; Monday to Tuesday 9am to 10pm; Wednesday to Thursday 9am to 11pm; Friday to Saturday 9am to 1am.
- The Dominion Post
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