Bar hopping: the Town Ball
Christchurch may have missed out on the Rugby World Cup, but the gigantic, hollow and egg-shaped bar that reared its pointy head in Paris in 2007 and in Auckland last year is now fully distended in Christchurch.
The Town Ball (a name that is both mildly embarrassing and amusing at the same time) really is quite something.
It's unapologetically dramatic, a bizarrely symmetrical scheme hatched out of the pressing necessity to have somewhere to drink among the dour ruins of a city centre.
It's cocky and sure of itself. It's not a bar that will subtly try to ingrain itself in Christchurch's delicate and nuanced social fabric.
It is a giant ball in Manchester St.
Outside, a roomy beer garden surrounds the ball. It's populated by heaters and big wooden furniture straight out of The Flintstones.
Inside, it's impressive and I could hardly believe I was inside a colossal inflatable shrine to 30 men running into each other.
There's a bar, a large restaurant and even a stage.
Upstairs (yes, there's an upstairs) a mezzanine overlooks the restaurant, which staff tell me is cleared out for a nightclub on the busy weekends. This area, too, is huge, with dozens of tables and its own bar.
After wandering around, mouth open, I ordered a beer - an expensive Matsons Black Beer ($9.50). The lack of beer on tap, which to be fair could be something to do with the fact we're in a delicate, easily deflatable construct, is disappointing.
The wine list is solid, and there is a cocktail menu featuring $15 cocktails named for the country's top Super 15 teams and the Blues.
Feeling sorry for the Aucklanders, I decided to drink something named after them. The bright blue vodka cocktail tasted like a melted Mr Freeze pop. And as a devoted Mr Freeze fan, the rush of cool blue, boozy nostalgia impressed.
The bar snacks are just what you'd normally expect to find, even inside a giant ball.
I considered the Manwich, a monster of a sandwich featuring bacon strips, four fried eggs, onion rings, lettuce, tomato and avocado, but went for Jamaican Jerk Chicken Nibbles ($15) - a sexy name for above-average chicken wings, along with pesto and sweet chilli bread, a carb feast that didn't match up to Winnie Bagoes' effort. The fries, though, were among the best I've had in this town.
Maybe I'm easily impressed these days, but put a huge balloon filled with beer in front of me and I get a little wide-eyed. I am not some sort of gawking philistine but yes, the Town Ball intrigues me.
On my visit it was rather empty but I will be back. I want to see this overly sized venue when it's packed. It's not necessarily really about food, drink or service.
It's about spectacle and I think the Town Ball could blow some life back into the CBD.
The Town Ball
Cnr Manchester and Southwark streets.
Mon-Fri 10am till late.
Sat-Sun 9am till late.