Dux charm endures in Christchurch
The Dux de Lux turns 30 this year, which is an amazing feat for any business, let alone a bar. Age aside, the Dux recently won the national award for Pub of the Year, which made me realise I had completely overlooked it in my reckoning of Christchurch bars, mainly due to sheer familiarity.
The Dux's strongest point by far is its setting. Perched just far enough from the CBD, the gigantic courtyard, bordered by the dual bars on the south and east, and with the Arts Centre beyond, is surely Christchurch's best spot.
A sail has been attached over the corner of the courtyard so inclement weather need not deter smokers, and the gas heaters are plumbed in underground so you need never freeze.
The bars themselves are an odd contrast that perfectly exemplifies the two poles of the Christchurch scene.
The Montreal Street-side bar is grungy and dark and populated by the muso set it has admirably supported for years (favourite memory: Chris Knox crowd-surfing perilously close to an overhead fan and then stopping mid-way through Not Given Lightly to demand money, claiming he had never made a penny off it).
It used to sell roll-your-own tobacco, and opens out onto a nook-and-crannied courtyard featuring stone sculptures. The main bar, on the Hereford Street side, has chrome furniture and a cigarette machine. TV screens follow the sport and outside the window is a neatly clipped piece of lawn and a low, manicured hedge.
The crowd you usually find in there is neater, often groups of teachers or after-work types, but the Dux's strength has always been that the courtyard is anyone's, a middle-ground where, in 13 years of patronage, I have never seen any trouble.
The Dux is a massive operation so it occasionally suffers from the inevitable de-personalisation that a large outfit has to live with. The restaurant, which I've never been particularly enamoured of, is cafeteria-like and the food, vegetarian and seafood, has never gone beyond fair. The pizzas are nice though.
The bars seem to have only a passing acquaintance with cocktails (the Dux still has over-head nip pourers, which are beginning to actually look retro now) but the beer is still some of the strongest in the city.
The Dux is the original Christchurch micro-brewery and has a corridor-worth of awards to prove it. The Nor'wester and the Blue Duck are my favourites, although I have several friends, admittedly mostly female, who swear by the Ginger Tom.
I am happy to report, the Dux has still got it. With summer around the corner I can hardly wait for one of those warm evenings in the courtyard. Ian Steward
Dux de Lux, Cnr Montreal and Hereford streets in Christchurch
Main bar: opens 11am seven days. Band bar: opens 5pm Tues-Wed, and noon Thurs-Sun.