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On our previous trip to Arrowtown, we’d fallen in love with the Blue Door Bar, quite possibly the most ambient room in all of New Zealand. Wood and stone form an interior that could as easily be from the Middle Ages as from the gold-seeking years, with rough-hewn benches along similarly-crafted tables and comfortable high-backed chairs bracketing upturned barrels, all centered around a roaring fire. The bar serves outflow from the nearby (and co-owned) Pesto and Saffron restaurants, with diners from the former often choosing to take their pizza into its cozy environs, and refugees from the latter frequently enjoying their desserts and digestifs around the fire as the evening lingers, but eventually – as at The Bunker – its own nightlife emerges, with patrons sipping, mingling and relaxing in a woodsmoke haze until the wee hours.

We, however, are here early, and aside from a friendly and adorable bartender/waitress setting up for the evening by industriously polishing brass, wood, window and leather surfaces, alone. We commandeer the key fire-fronting chairs and order a pair of by-the-glass wines. (2/05)

After dinner, we return to the Blue Door Bar for drinks. A foursome vacates the central fireplace positions just as we enter, and the bartender (still adorable, but now fully focused on a busy room) immediately motions to us, saying “you really can’t pass up those seats.” Well, no, we can’t…and we don’t. Theresa dreamily sips fragrant green tea while I relax with the warm woodspice of a single-malt Scotch. The warm fire, the woodsmoke mingling with the smoke from my Scotch, and the incredible ambiance carry me softly away to another time…another place… (2/05)

After dinner, we repair once more to the Blue Door Bar, and settle into the “good seats” (those fronting the fireplace), to let the satisfaction of a stay well-spent suffuse our souls. And thus, our last evening passes the way I would have wished, were I to have written the script. As for tomorrow? Tomorrow we write the sequel. (3/05)


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