Mar 13, 2015 Cafes
It’s a fantasy many of us have had during an especially interminable work meeting: what if I threw in the job and opened my own bar? Hanging out with your friends, drinking for free… It’s a wonder we’re not all buying cocktail bibles and telling the boss where to shove it.
That’s exactly what Ella Mizrahi, Celia Harrison and Oliver Driver have done at Harry, minus the part where they quit their day jobs. As arts production company Celery, Mizrahi and Harrison are still creating large-scale installations and events like Art in the Dark and A Weird Night Out; actor/director Driver continues to work like a Trojan across stage and screen (his next project: a Live Live Cinema production of Little Shop of Horrors).
Somehow, the trio still found time to resurrect an unloved Ponsonby site – most recently known as Somewhere to Drink, or STD (“We gave the place a good scrubbing after that.”) – as Harry, a tiny drinking den dedicated to conviviality, creativity and Jägerbomb-free drinking.
“We wanted to make a place where people could meet and talk – that whole thing of ‘where everybody knows your name,’” says Driver. “All three of us are really social people, we’re always having friends over to our houses. We think of Harry as a really big back deck.”
With next to zero experience in hospo between them, they’ve put themselves under the tutelage of bar manager Taran Maiava-Paris. “For people who’ve never run a bar, they’re doing really well,” she says. The owners aren’t at the cocktail-making stage quite yet (that’s Maiava-Paris’ job, for now), but they’re improving all the time: “Well, I’d say Ollie has the mojito down.”
The drinks list at Harry (the name comes from Mizrahi and Driver’s dog, with a bit of Harrison’s surname thrown in) is short and uncomplicated. “Kind of like Harry has already done the choosing for you,” says Driver. There’s no kitchen as yet, but they offer cheeseboards from The Dairy at Ponsonby Central, dumplings from Xiao Dan or full meals from Ponsonby Road Bistro, both neighbours. Coffee is by local roasters Eighthirty.
The three say they see Harry as a home away from home for the creative types who’ve long roamed the Ponsonby strip. On Wednesdays, Driver hosts a creative industry meet-up, Harry Wants a Debrief, featuring drink discounts for those in the industry (“we’ve a very broad definition of ‘creative industries’”), guest amateur bartenders – this month, DJ Nick D – and something called Trivia Tennis.
Tuesdays are Harrison’s night. Starting soon, Harry Talks will feature interesting people talking about their work. “It’s a chance for creative people to share their skills and knowledge. And have a drink.”
Mizrahi’s Sunday karaoke night isn’t quite as highbrow, but that’s the idea, she says: “We thought of things we love to do – socialise, sing karaoke, learn new things – and built the bar around them.”
155 Ponsonby Rd
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