Inside Christchurch's hidden speakeasy-inspired bar Parlour

by Joanna Wane / 30 September, 2018
Nick Inkster at Parlour. Photo/Victoria Birkinshaw.

Nick Inkster at Parlour. Photo/Victoria Birkinshaw.

Inside Nick Inkster's bar Parlour.

A bookcase conceals the secret door to Parlour, a salon-style cocktail bar where women – accompanied, perhaps, by a well-behaved man – can retreat for “discussion and debate” over a Parlour Slammer (cherry-infused Amaretto, sloe gin, rye and freshly juiced orange).

Christchurch proprietor Nick Inkster prides himself on attention to detail: Lady of Quality, a Regency romance with a lively heroine, is the book you press to enter the inner sanctum. “It’s the idea of the ‘parlour’ as the best room in the house,” says Inkster of this new addition to his speakeasy-inspired O.G.B. bar, which he opened two years ago in the Old Government Building. But the real trade secret about Parlour is that before its elegant, plush-velvet makeover, it was used as a storeroom for the bar.

Built in 1913, the Old Government Building was one of the few left standing in Cathedral Square after the 2011 earthquake. “Everyone thought I was crazy,” says Inkster, who bought an apartment in the building before securing a lease for the bar. “But I’ve always loved heritage buildings and I like to go against the flow. So when everyone was running out of the city, I ran in.”

At 34, Inkster has become a familiar face in his old hometown. His bartenders at O.G.B. wear suspenders and cheesecutter caps, and he’s set a trend for signature beards. “I’ve become my brand!” he laughs.

A carpenter by trade, he worked in the oil and gas industry in Western Australia for seven years, investing in property whatever cash he could spare. And while trading in Christchurch has been tough as the city struggles to regain its feet, Inkster doesn’t owe a cent to the bank on his businesses.

Last year, he opened a barbershop next to the bar, where you can order a hot, cut-throat shave with a shot of whisky. Next up is a refurbishment of the O.G.B. restaurant as an old English pub (the kitchen also provides room service for the Heritage Christchurch, a boutique hotel that’s located in the same building).

Now plans are afoot for a laundromat on nearby New Regent St. But like the bookcase at Parlour, it’s a front – and will conceal another hidden bar, selling flowers and coffee on the side. 

Parlour, Old Government Building, 28 Cathedral Square, Christchurch

This article was first published in the August 2018 issue of North & South.

Latest

Fine lines: New Anzac books and graphic novels for kids
105028 2019-04-25 00:00:00Z Books

Fine lines: New Anzac books and graphic novels for…

by Ann Packer

A telegraph “boy”, heroic animals and even shell-shock make for engaging reads for children.

Read more
Keeping up appearances: The challenging job of restoring NZ's lighthouses
104978 2019-04-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

Keeping up appearances: The challenging job of res…

by Fiona Terry

Ensuring lighthouses stay “shipshape” isn’t a job for the faint-hearted.

Read more
The former major reuniting service medals with their rightful owners
105015 2019-04-25 00:00:00Z Life in NZ

The former major reuniting service medals with the…

by Fiona Terry

Service medals are being reunited with their rightful owners thanks to former major Ian Martyn and his determined research.

Read more
PM announces 'Christchurch Call' to end use of social media for terrorism
104952 2019-04-24 00:00:00Z Politics

PM announces 'Christchurch Call' to end use of soc…

by Noted

A meeting aims to see world leaders and CEOs of tech companies agree to a pledge called the ‘Christchurch Call’.

Read more
Red Joan: Judi Dench almost saves Soviet spy story from tedium
104942 2019-04-24 00:00:00Z Movies

Red Joan: Judi Dench almost saves Soviet spy story…

by James Robins

The fictionalised account of a British woman who spied for the Soviet Union is stiflingly quaint.

Read more
What to watch on TV this Anzac Day
104749 2019-04-24 00:00:00Z Television

What to watch on TV this Anzac Day

by Fiona Rae

Māori TV once again devotes the day to Anzac programming, including a live broadcast from Gallipoli.

Read more
Twist in the tale: Why Margaret Mahy changed the end of her classic debut
104490 2019-04-24 00:00:00Z Books

Twist in the tale: Why Margaret Mahy changed the e…

by Sally Blundell

The two different endings of the beloved A Lion in the Meadow still provoke debate. So which is better, the 1969 original or the later, kinder one?

Read more
Mapping the second brain: The latest science on the effect of your gut bacteria
104884 2019-04-24 00:00:00Z Health

Mapping the second brain: The latest science on th…

by Donna Chisholm

Most of us have heard the five-plus-a-day message for fruit and vegetables. But new research into gut health suggests that advice may need tweaking.

Read more