Best place to buy a fine cigar in Auckland

We had a birthday in the family last week and as is our tradition, we decided to hunt out some nice cigars.

I’ve taken quite a liking to cigars, call me a novice enthusiast. I’ve found that smoking the odd cigar is the perfect rebellion against a harsh Pentecostal upbringing – it’s naughty enough to get a reaction from your mother, but you’ve still got the “at least I’m not smoking cigarettes” defence.

I’m told this argument is typically male.

Anyway, the thing I’ve found about cigars is that if you ain’t spending some decent coin, you might as well light up a rod of aged dowel and have a suck on that.

A fine Cuban

I found these decent cigars at Dominion Road’s Hollywood Dairy while we were living around the corner. They’re well-priced with a vanilla-soaked wood filter at the end, which makes them tolerable to the lady-folk who want to join in. Somehow though, I’ve always felt like I was compromising on candy cigars.

So, back to Hollywood. I went in there last week for the usual fare, and on this fateful night I was greeted by Mohammed, who stopped me at the humidor and indicated for me to follow him behind the fluorescent strips of the Staff Only doorway. I followed him into his backroom, where he revealed his private humidor – home of The Good Stuff; proper Cubans and all that; from the thick Churchill style to the delicious Guantanamera Habana I picked up, for no other reason than it came with it’s own plastic capsule (novice enthusiast, I did warn you.)

Before I left, he gave me a peek at his holy grail – the top shelf of the bottom drawer; kept in a safe below the humidor; the kind of Cubans reserved for politicians, despots and dictators.

Mohammed says his hidden stash is the best range you’ll find round these parts, for the best price.

So, if you have a special occasion, head to Hollywood Dairy on Dominion. Ask for Mohammed, tell him I sent you. He’ll show you the gold.

Hollywood Dairy 638 Dominion Road

– Luke Oram, Guest blogger

Fancy a little Mexican?

I’ll be the first to admit that my knowledge of all things Mexican is limited to a very shaky rendition of Ricky Martin’s Living La Vida Loca at karaoke bars. I did have an authentic Mexican dining experience once, just outside of Orange County, California; a great little place wedged firmly between a drycleaners and a half deserted strip-mall. Thanks to a genuine tequila experience, that’s about as specific as my description gets.

Wellesley Street’s Little Mexico Cantina does a ripping trade in real deal Mexican grub – not to mention stocking over 50 different brands of tequila. The waitresses have mastered the genuine South American Sashay and they’ll give you a good once-over before recommending the spicy dish option. It’s the best place to head for a pre-gamble tipple before heading across the road to Sky City; a little Mexican courage and all that.

Little Mexican Cantina, 29 Wellesley St W, Ph +64 9 366 7001

– Luke Oram, Guest blogger

Quirky books on Dominion Road

It seems like an age since Don McGlashan immortalized Dominion Road as a ragged landmark in our city’s history. Travel down it now and it’s the same true mish-mash of old and new Auckland; the fast-food joints and haberdasheries rubbing shoulders with the old brick of Methodist churches and the leftovers of the Worota Buildings.

One of my favourite places on Dominion Road is Brazier’s Books and Art. I have a huge penchant for second-hand bookstores, largely satisfied by Hard To Find Books in Onehunga, but Brazier’s had always fascinated me. It’s got that bookstore look about it; from the weathered first-editions scattered across the store-front window, to the faded sandwich board on the curb. It’s almost mythical that way.

The other day, I found myself with time to spare and headed in. As luck would have it, I picked the right day, stumbling across a line of old New Zealand periodicals to greet rock and roll royalty Graham Brazier leaning against a glass case, huffing away on a Pall Mall and strumming a beat-up guitar. Which is about as mythical as you can get.

Graham’s a huge book lover. We had a good yarn about it actually. He showed me his collections of first editions, which are coveted the world over. Early George Orwell magazines, volumes of Middle American out-of-print editions in spades.

He’s a genteel old host, Graham, which is lucky, cos the place is set up like a lost uncle’s attic; boxes of books strewn across every available plank of hardwood floor. In a very endearing rock ‘n roll way of course.

Check it out soon.

In fact, I’ll give you a week before I head back in there and grab the mint condition Hendrix vinyl I found lying in a crate by the Almanacs.

Brazier’s Books & Art, 714 Dominion Road

– Luke Oram, Guest blogger

Rainbow’s End night rides and live gigs

Admittedly, it’s been a good couple of decades since I last ventured through the hallowed gates of New Zealand’s favourite little amusement park. Since then, my experience of theme parks has been limited to a disenchanting Disneyland experience (I’m the guy who shows up on the day the rollercoaster is closed for repairs) and colourful zombie flicks (because that’s where the undead always flock for the big finale.)

The Invader

Rainbow’s End is a pretty huge institute for any kiwi kid. Us adults are probably used to overlooking it now. A couple of years ago, the Manukau City Council took a 0.4 hectare-sized bite out of the place in exchange for a new lease.

But the End is doing pretty well for itself, and it warrants another visit, especially from us big kids. Through March the park is running Night Rides with live gigs every Saturday night; a little rock and roll to go with your rocking roller-coasters. Ahem.

Always keen to impress my younger siblings with my affluent, perk-fuelled writer’s lifestyle, I took my 17-year old sister along to the inaugural Night Rides session, with indie rockers These Four Walls providing the live entertainment. The bumper boats have never been better served by a backdrop of razor-sharp riffs and teenage angst.

The Power Surge

I must say, and my green-faced companion would agree, the real stars of the show are Rainbow’s Ends two newest additions, The Power Surge and The Invader. Because you’re never too old to be strapped onto a huge disc and left at the mercy of gravity’s sweeping malice.

You still have 3 Saturdays to go. I recommend bundling up the whanau and checking it out – relive those childhood memories and catch some great kiwi tunes while you’re at it.

Cue ‘gold-at-the-end-of-the-rainbow’ pun for the closer…

Click here for Rainbow’s End Night Rides



– Luke Oram, Guest blogger