Bar hopping: The Darkroom

IN THE KNOW: Teke Norcross and T'Nealle Joie at The Darkroom in St Asaph St.
IN THE KNOW: Teke Norcross and T'Nealle Joie at The Darkroom in St Asaph St.

The sole aim of a bar's lighting should be to make you appear more attractive to the opposite sex.

With that in mind, The Darkroom, a relatively new bar in Christchurch's city centre sounds great.

Tucked away on St Asaph St, The Darkroom is one of the few new bars inside the ruins of Christchurch's four avenues.

In a particularly eerily quiet street, the entrance to The Darkroom seems disguised, like the gateway to a non-descript community hall. It's like a speakeasy, where you need to be let in on the secret.

Inside, it's dark (good start), cosy, quaint, and pleasingly small. It's moody, and beautifully lit by candles and lamps, and mostly very, very cool.

"I'm not cool enough for this," a friend offered when we went inside. He's right, he isn't.

Old couches, lounge tables, kitchen stools and benches litter the petite bar, with a stage as a centrepiece. The whole place is charming and pretty enough to ensure it takes you a while to notice one of the walls is made of plywood.

On my first visit on a Saturday, The Darkroom wasn't exactly busy, but there were enough people to allow me to describe it as atmospheric.

Inside, a handful of people sipped beer, while some stood around watching a bloke tap away rhythmically on a Mac as music boomed - one of the many live music events hosted by the bar over weekends.

On a recent visit it was quieter but I took more time to explore the drinks and food menu. The food options are sparse but adequate. There are breads, cornchips, toasties and a selection of pizzas. We opted for cornchips with salsa ($5) along with a pizza with onion marmalade ($10). It was pleasantly reasonable and tasty.

Arriving late we were told pizza service stops at 9.30pm, but the bar staff went out of their way to feed us - very pleasing.

The staff are good and the food OK, but the real star of the show is the frankly ridiculously large selection of drinks.

Three Boys Best Bitter is available on pump tap for $10 and Yeastie Boys Hud-a-wa' Strong is also available on tap, an amber ale priced at $11.

At first, I opted for the amber ale, a creamy and easy to drink beer served at room temperature.

The Darkroom also stocks a superb range of bottled beers, from the Auckland $8 Scott's Gluten Free Amber Ale to the 8 Wired iStout, from Blenheim, which is not cheap at $16.

There's liquor galore, the highlight being the selection of whiskies (Irish, Scottish and even Japanese), along with wine, rum, brandy, tequila, vermouth, gin, and cider.

The cocktail selection is also excellent. I sipped an Old Fashioned, having watched too much Mad Men. A bitingly strong whisky cocktail, it oozes cool.

The Darkroom is not new; it turns a year old in October. It feels a little lost in a part of the city we've all but forgotten. This is a mistake. The Darkroom is a gem, well worth taking the time to find.


336 St Asaph St

Wed-Sat 5pm to 1am

The Press