From historic to contemporary, and boutique-chic to cosy-casual, these five hotel bars in Rotorua are fantastic places to relax and unwind.
Regardless of the décor, these five bars are comfortable and easy going, with areas fully meant for lounging after a long day at work or during the weekend. There’s no pressure to get up and mingle or show off your moves (or lack thereof) on the dance floor. Some are great places to catch up with friends and hear the latest news, or take your partner on date night, or both.
Lounging is certainly on the cards at Clarke’s Bar at Novotel Rotorua Lakeside. With big, plush high-back chairs and booths to sink into, a 360-degree open gas fire pit in the centre of the room, and floor-to-ceiling windows overlooking Lake Rotorua and the newly redeveloped lakefront, it’s the perfect spot to cosy up during the cooler autumn and winter evenings.
Clarke’s is open daily, and on Saturdays live music starts at 4.30pm. Along with a drinks menu, there’s also a bar snack menu available. Make it a date night on Thursday, Friday or Saturday and try out the new indulgent, handcrafted dessert platters for two for just $35, available from 8.30pm.
On warmer nights, head out to the large courtyard to enjoy the views and vibe – perfect for catching up with friends. If you feel up for a moonlit stroll, right across the street you’ll find the brand-new boardwalk that meanders along the lakeshore.
Duke’s Bar & Restaurant
For 125 years, the historic Duke’s Bar & Restaurant has been entertaining locals and visitors alike.
The gorgeous bar has that private-members feel of yesteryear but without any of the pretence, and the classic décor (think leather chairs and original wooden flooring) and vibe set the scene for a relaxed and fun atmosphere. Like any great inner city restaurant or pub, Duke’s takes advantage of the outdoors with comfy seating options on the veranda and spilling out onto the sidewalk.
Duke’s hosts happy hour daily from 4.30 to 6.30pm. The bar is perfectly located for pre-function drinks and nibbles, especially if you’re heading to beautiful Government Gardens just metres away for live music in the historic Band Rotunda, the Energy Events Centre for local sporting or other events, or directly across the street to the Sir Howard Morrison Performing Arts Centre (currently closed while undergoing renovations).
Do make plans to stay for dinner, as well. The food at Duke’s is an inspired mix of modern and traditional and features a long list of all-time classic favourites. Head chef Digraj Singh (DJ) champions the use of fresh seasonal produce from local suppliers so you can expect exciting flavours showcasing the best of New Zealand’s diverse range of ingredients.
Barrel & Co. Bar and Grill
Barrel & Co. Bar and Grill is another spot perfectly located for pre-function drinks and nibbles, as well as dinner.
Smack in the centre of the city, you’ll find this welcoming and casual bar at the 5-star Pullman Rotorua hotel. Head down Arawa Street and you can’t miss the festoon lights highlighting the outdoor, undercover seating along the sidewalk.
Inside, the lounge is welcoming and comfy, with seating perfectly arranged for small to medium-sized groups.
Barrel & Co. is great for a happy hour meet up (4 to 6pm daily) with your city-working friends, or to enjoy a bevvy before dinner or the movies. Happy hour specials apply to drinks, and include a 10% discount off of anything from the new tapas menu which features the most amazing crispy panko-coated haloumi chips with harissa yoghurt dip, char-grilled Spanish chorizo, and an awesome flatbread platter with smoked salmon, cold cuts, grilled vegetables, hummus and dip of the day. The crispy fried kale is also a hit and actually ticked the box for all of us meat-eaters!
The Regent Room
The Regent Room is the perfect spot to kick off girls’ night out or a romantic date. Classic French sofas, chic black and white décor and an indoor/outdoor fireplace provide an elegant backdrop to a special evening, especially if you enjoy cocktails or a sensational boutique wine list.
The Regent Room is open for in the evenings Wednesday through Sunday. The courtyard is the perfect place for relaxing poolside with a martini in hand, especially while sitting near the fireplace.
The Regent Room serves up a superb selection of contemporary award-winning New Zealand cuisine, including popular sharing plates and tapas.
Enjoy the friendly cosy atmosphere of D Bar at Distinction Rotorua Hotel. If you’re in town with the kids, right next door to D Bar is the kids’ room where they can read, play or watch a movie. D bar is a great spot to relax and quench your thirst after a walk through Whakarewarewa - The Living Māori Village just a couple blocks away.
Happy hour specials run 5 to 6pm Sunday through Thursday, and 5 to 7pm on Friday and Saturday.
If you’re feeling peckish, both dinner and bar snacks can be enjoyed in the bar while you relax or catch live sports on the 60-inch TV, or you can amble over to locals’ favourite Mr Yakitori Casual Dining Bar (pictured below). Enjoy watching your chef flame-grill your succulent, mouth-watering yakitori (skewers of meat, seafood and vegetables, basted in a divine sauce) to perfection before your eyes, best accompanied by beer or sake.