We’ve established that it is impossible to agree on the best bar. But here a washed-up fourth year with an alcohol problem continues to assess the general vibes of our most iconic drinking spots. This is Part Two of the controversial Great Annual Critic Bar Review. (If you think everything written here is wrong and you want to help us rank the bars by voting, check out our Insta story @criticmag and exercise your democratic rights.)
The Baa Bar
You really couldn’t do a bar review of Dunedin bars without including the Baa Bar. I went along on Karaoke Thursday. I purchased myself a vodka lemonade to fit in amongst the screaming freshers. Taylor Swift's “Love Story” had never sounded so shrill. The atmosphere was like any other classic New Zealand pub. Humble, simple and full of tradies. The air smelt of a winter's evening paired with Pall Malls, with an undertone of Speights. It’s not my first choice, but there is no denying the long-standing legacy of the Baa Bar and its convenient location near Fatty Lane.
Atmosphere: 6/10, simple and predictable
Drinks: 5/10, just the standard, the usual
Music: 3/10, you couldn’t actually hear anything over the screeching freshers
If you are looking for a guaranteed good time on a Saturday night, Zanzibar is the place for you. While it’s not usually a student go-to, there are many kooky characters to befriend while you chug one of the thousands of gins on offer. The vibes are immaculate, and you feel like you’re in an entirely different universe. It’s like having an acid trip, but without the acid or risk of introspection. You can sit in the cubby outside with the philosophical boomers and their cigarettes, or the bar inside with the rest of the night dwellers. The music is great, whether it’s a live performer or the bar’s playlist of boomer bangers. If you’re looking for music, chaotic energy, and making new friends with eclectic folk, Zanzibar is the place to drink.
Atmosphere: 10/10, the perfect place to live out your golden years
Drinks: 7/10, a little on the pricey side, but isn’t this the age of supporting local businesses?
Music: 8/10, it’s either a local gem or a boomer banger
Woof is one of Dunedin’s newer night scene editions, but has quickly grown in popularity amongst the community. Sitting in Woof is like sitting in a Christmas tree. You are literally the elf on the shelf. There’s lights, decor, flowers and knick-knacks nestled in every corner. It’s like being a kid in a candy store, but with alcohol. The drunker you get, the more spectacular and overwhelming the environment. After five cocktails you begin to wonder whether you’re at a bar in Dunedin or somewhere slightly fancier and more exclusive, like Melbourne. As for the cast of characters, there’s a lot to unpack. There’s the sophisticated young professionals who drink Rosé and talk about how much they hate their HR jobs, there’s craft beer drinking soft bois ready to gaslight you at any moment, basic white girls drinking vodka cranberries and the group of middle aged DILFs who are for sure having affairs. It’s a good space for people to watch, and the drinks are pretty bougie as well.
Atmosphere: 9/10, one point deducted for sensory overload
Drinks: 7/10, on the pricier side but the presentation makes up for it
Music: 6/10, a mix of lo-fi house beats and Kate Bush
Dog With Two Tails
Tucked away on Moray Place just past The Octagon is the Dog With Two Tails and its accompanying venue, Bark. The Dog With Two Tails is a classic spot home to members of Dunedin’s art community, and craft beer drinkers. As for drinks, they do surprise cocktails and have an in-house gin distillery, which is pretty sick. They also have pretty good curly fries. There’s a range of entertainment, including gigs, stand-up comedy, and quiz nights. The Dog With Two Tails is a bar which has something for everyone on almost every night of the week.
Atmosphere: 8/10, you can tell everyone is humble and happy to be there
Drinks: 9/10, they’re full of mystery
Music: 7/10, it varies between local musicians or amateur comedians
Getting to Pequeño is quite the trek. As I was walking down the alleyway off Moray Place, I wasn’t sure if I was going to a bar or a brothel. Once inside, it was still hard to tell. Pequeño certainly has an air of snobbery to it, and you can tell most people who go there think they’re pretty hot shit. Me and my little vodka soda have never felt so inferior. The Thursday night jazz is groovy, but it can be pretty cramped and hard to find a spot. It’s pretty loud, and trying to order a drink is basically like participating in the Hunger Games. However, if you have ego issues, expensive jackets and an appreciation for jazz, this is the place for you.
Atmosphere: 5/10, it’s a combination of mood lighting and Tall Poppy Syndrome
Drinks: 4/10, expensive and overrated
Music: 8/10, you can never go wrong with jazz