We stopped by for a drink in the late afternoon, but owing to the Good Friday, Easter Trading Restrictions we had to order food as well. It seems that, in an otherwise very secular New Zealand, one cannot sit and enjoy an alcoholic drink at a bar or restaurant on Good Friday unless it is part of a meal. For a moment I thought I was back in the Texas Bible Belt. Seems downright un-Kiwi-like.
We opted for the Hawke's Bay Seasonal Platter. At $40 it wasn't quite a bargain for two people who really only wanted a drink. However, it was tasty enough and carried us over until breakfast the next day. The menu looked promising but we did not make it back before heading back home on Sunday. Service was incredibly slow even though there were but a handful of customers; I'm sure the holiday pay leads management to cut the wait staff to the bare bones. I suspect that on a more typical day the service is better, maybe even great. One certainly gets a sense that such a grand place must do better than we experienced.
The bar is well decorated with appropriate art deco furnishings, brass, incredible wooden back bar, marble bar top, tile accents, and ceiling fans straight out of a F. Scott Fitzgerald novel. It is a shame that a bar of this visual quality lacks any decent beers. Stella Artois, Steinlager Premium and a short list of exhausted mainstream beer certainly cannot be the best such an iconic hotel bar can muster.
We were warned of the Easter Trading issues by a prominent sign posted in the bar entrance. Additionally, there was a warning sign posted in the bar that, because it was a holiday, there would be a 15% surcharge. I understand that the religious observance was not the Emporium's doing. I also get the fact that New Zealand's bars, cafes and the lot are required to pay time-and-a-half to wait staff on national holidays. However, there should be a rule that warning signs should be limited to one per day. I would think that the Masonic Hotel could manage to either: 1) forgo the surcharge, 2) staff the bar sufficiently, or 3) close altogether as many do.