One of my earliest memories is of York Lane, a dirty tiny thoroughfare behind Wynyard Station. My parents used to take me to the city on Saturdays and park nearby, and one day as we passed through York Lane I saw the Paddle Pop lion (or a man dressed up like him) handing out ice-cream.
Why he would be in a dark dirty laneway waiting for children is now, I realise, a little odd – but as an ice-cream-deprived kid with a feline obsession, it was the most magical moment I could remember. Every Sunday for the following year I kept looking for the Paddle Pop lion in that laneway but never saw him again.
Feeling lost and betrayed, I gave up eating Paddle Pops for good.
All of which is a convoluted and self obsessed way of saying that a small bar called York Lane has opened up in that laneway of broken dreams.
What makes York Lane different to most laneway bars is that it isn’t hidden in a basement – instead, you can sit on a milkcrate right by the lane and watch as the 8.15pm garbage truck goes by and pedestrians (including a regular stream of homeless people who hang around the lane) shuffle past.
Then again, there are also lamp-lit tables down the back for those who want a bit more intimacy, with other décor details including a stack of milkcrates that function as shelving in the small kitchen area up the front (believe it or not, this actually looks good), punch-card wallpaper, wooden floorboards and enamel tables up the front. I realise my description makes this bar sound like a hobo’s hideout but it’s actually a stylish little place (it can only hold a maximum of 30 people).
There’s also a great smell emanating from the kitchen and so when I turn up on a Wednesday night with a friend we both decide to order food and wine. We go for the duck pancakes ($12) and the chorizo hotpot with cannellini beans ($12), as well as two glasses of red – the Seppelt shiraz for $9, and the Society pinot noir for $8.50.
The wine is decent but nothing to write about in my opinion but the food is. The duck pancakes are freshly made but come prewrapped – which I prefer, since I hate having to roll things myself – and the chorizo hotpot has a clean, simple taste that’s not overloaded with spices. Actually, I wouldn’t mind a bit more oomph in the flavour but my more subtle friend loves it the way it is.
The service is fantastic, and so when the bartender tells me about his negroni I try it out. This is made with Punt e Mes rosso vermouth, Tanqueray gin and Campari and is faultless. For those who take their negronis as seriously as I do, the bartender shakes them here rather than stirring and uses small ice cubes, all of which dilutes and softens the drink a little. Some would disagree with this but I like this approach.
Despite the indie music and the bike and the helmets hanging on the wall, this is not another hipster hangout. Ultimately, it feels like a genuine little hole in the wall when you can have a drink and a chat while smelling the fragrant breeze from the laneway – unless, that is, it’s 8.15pm.
York Lane, located on (surprise, surprise) York Lane (there is no number), open Monday to Friday, phone 9299 1676
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate York Lane?