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Inside Christchurch's hidden speakeasy-inspired bar Parlour

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.