Big drum roll… here are the details of what you will enjoy at SOL Square this time next week!

We promise you a fantastic line up of bars, restaurants and entertainment as seen in the video.

When you purchase a SOL Square card for $45, you receive a booklet detailing the restaurants and bars accepting our SOL Square card and offering discounts.  The SOL Square card can be used to pay for your meal at some establishments, whilst other establishments may use it to offer discounts.  You can buy a SOL Square card at the conference registration desk to take advantage of special deals and discounted drinks!  Unable to attend conference? Come down after work and take this great networking opportunity to dine, enjoy the entertainment and company.

Some menus are available from the SOL Square website. If booking tables, this can be done directly with the restaurant.

New to conference or attending on your own? Aoraki hosts will be at a designated venue to meet, greet and get the party started.  The venue to meet at will be advertised during conference.

Some fantastic local bands have been organised for you to dance the night away with.  LunaFunk are playing @ Fat Eddies from 7.30 pm.  This five piece band play funk, soul, motown and disco with a fresh polished funky sound.  The band will commence as a 2 piece while you are having dinner, and then 3 more will join them to raise the tempo at 10 pm.

At Cartel, a 2 piece Country/Blue Grass Band will be playing from 10 pm.

At Mexican Cafe, The Young Juans, a 5 piece latin / funk band will be playing from 7pm ole!

This is shaping up to be a memorable night, with over 200 people attending.  See you there!

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Wow, I’m really jazzed about this whole SOL Square evening on the second day of conference.  I’ve never been there before but if the following video is anything to go by it really will be a good night.

That pizza looks especially yummy but on the other hand recent adventures have given me a taste for French champagne (espesh Perrier-Jouët, dahlings) so La Petite Croix might be the way to go.

I’ve got to remember to get my SOL Square card sorted so that I can take advantage of associated discounts (I’m a sucker for loyalty cards anyway.  I’ve got a wallet full of those things) and then all I’ve got to worry about is what to wear…and how I’m going to manage going to sessions the next day.

Okay, so I know we’ve talked a lot about alcohol on these pages.  But I love my cocktails and ‘unfortunately’ I was given the very difficult task of checking out two of the cocktail joints in SOL Square.

With my blog writer hat firmly on my head I boldly ventured forth to Minx.  The first stop on this very special research trip.

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You enter Minx from SOL square and walk straight into the bar.  It’s open to the lane, and you can see the bartenders working away whenever you walk past.  It must be horrible for them in winter, though there are plenty of cosy little nooks for patrons to sit in while they hang out.

The bar itself has a feature wall behind it of, you guessed it, alcohol.  And what they don’t have you don’t want.  The shapes and colours of all of the different bottles are fairly dizzying.  Although that could also be the lighting scheme, which combines a mixture of  dimly lit areas, with feature walls of bright, loud and colourful illumination.

Cocktails are fairly priced, and pretty much what you would expect from central Christchurch.  Though be careful that you don’t order the most expensive mixers for your drink.  Elib made the mistake of ordering the top drawer vodka for her dirty martini, and paid the price.  Though she did say it was delicious.

The toilets were very clean, even late in the evening.  And I personally recommend their sidecar.  They make em lethal, but very tasty.

Apparently they also do food at Minx, but I can’t tell you much about that…

Second stop on the very special research trip is La Petite Croix.

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The name is a very French twist on it’s big brother, Yellowcross, which sits warily on La Petite’s tail, watching out for it from behind.

I’d often walked past it, wishing I was cool enough to go inside.  But I have research to do.  So along with Elib and Mo-Mo I boldly ventured forth (again).

Inside Edith Piaf is on the radio, the lights are low and sexy, the vibe is Parisian, and the maitre ‘d assures me that he makes the best Cosmopolitan in town.

Never having been a Cosmo fan, I plump for the Vesper Martini, whilst Elib has a Manhattan and Mo-Mo a sidecar.  I’m slurring after the first sip of my Vesper (thanks Ian Fleming), and Elib and Mo-Mo (who are both more sensible) praise their choices equally highly.  Looking up at the bar later I see the maitre ‘d making a Cosmo and wish I had given it a try.  Next research trip… sidecar

Whilst drinking our ‘tails we take the time to look at the classy menu.  It comes bound in an old book cover from the Royal Academy (tres chic) and all of the French staples are there.  I try daring Mo-Mo to order the steak tartare just to see what the classic dish looks like.  Sadly she declines.  Being a vegetarian I’m not going there myself…

But hey, we’re here to study cocktails not food.

La Petite’s drinks are reasonably priced, and you don’t have to worry about ordering the most expensive vodka here.  Just be sure you have money for the bus ride home.

mexican-cafe-logoAAAAreeeba. The Mexican Cafe is not a high end high class joint. It is a lively, noisy and very busy place with a vibrant carnival like atmosphere. We went there in June the night before the City of Christchurch Marathon – my companions were ‘walking the half’ so a night out was still within the training programme. Using the Entertainment Book voucher my two friends and I had a very filling night out for a very modest sum.

Being a Saturday night the place was pumping and we had to wait at the bar with a jug of margaritas to keep us going. I wondered if it would all turn bad at that point having had a couple of bad run ins with a jug or two of margaritas in the past, but this was a smooth and mmmmmm inducing experience. Mexican food can be dull and mass produced but these guys obviously spend time making the food tasty and authentic as NZ mex food can be.

I can’t remember what I ate but it was a bit on the traditional side. I kicked myself when Ange tucked into something with a little more interesting and tasty. Because the prices are so reasonable with mains topping at about $22 I am so looking forward to going back and trying some of the more interesting items on the menu. You can check out the extensive menu on the website at www.mexicancafe.co.nz

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After jotting down a few lines about Cartel I checked out the spin on the SOL Square website and found this ‘Cartel has generated a legion of fans with its standoffish attitude and cool staff. Specialising in cocktails and cigars, Cartel should be your next stop on a visit to SOL Square’ I might not have gone there if I had known that it was standoffish, I am not a standoffish kinda a girl.

However, this proved not to be my experience. Cartel is a grungy looking place with some kind of attitude to the uninitiated, cluttered and busy. We ventured in on a very cold but crispy June evening earlyish. The decor was dark and interesting and the staff really friendly, even though they are probably trained to be standoffish. We didn’t sample the food but had a lovely bucket of Pinot and headed outside to sit under the gas heaters on the big sofa. Hugging the woolly covered hottie offered to me at the bar I sat watching the lights twinkling and the people wander by. Apparently bands play here and it gets really busy. On a Tuesday night during Conference I can see Cartel attracting a wide range of people looking for a very relaxing and slightly standoffish experience…

shopsignHaven’t decided yet which venue you want to check out at the LIANZA Conference Dinner?

The Fish and Chip Shop, is a great place to go for kiwiana kitsch and tasty fish and chips reasonably priced.  Your meal is served wrapped up in old school style using reprinted pages of historical NZ newsprint.   Be prepared to stuff yourself silly with huge pieces of fish and “enough greasy chips to feed a horse”!

Across the courtyard from The Fish and Chip Shop is Ishimoto, the location of our Conference Committee Friday night drinks a few weeks back.  We sat at the banquet style table in the bay window as pictured here:

You can order as many or as few Japanese “sidedishes” as you like – great if you don’t want a huge meal, or if you want to share a variety of different dishes with a group.   For a look at the Japanese menu, go to http://www.ishimoto.co.nz/
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So that you get an idea of the different venues at SOL Square, we’ll be bringing you information and photos to highlight the various places in this cool space, to get you enthusiastic about the Tuesday night social scene. This time round I’m going to share my experiences of Fat Eddie’s and I’ll share a friend’s experience of Toast with you.

Apparently Fat Eddie is a real person … it’s the nickname of Edward J. Schwartz. I’ve not yet had the pleasure of meeting Fat Eddie, but I have had a great time just hanging out with friends recently at Fat Eddie’s instead.

We mooched in after work, we found a booth, we ordered some cocktails (there’s a great array of alcoholic and not-even-alcoholic drinks to choose from, I can recommend the Down Home Punch and the Mango Tango), we listened to a local jazz band, and eventually I convinced my friends to join me on the dance floor. There’s plenty of food to choose from, and good to have a platter or three to share with folks, there’s lots of space to sit and talk, as well as dance if you are that way inclined (and since it’s a library conference, it’s very likely to happen that we’ll be dancing late into the night).

While I haven’t yet been to Toast, I asked around and found a friend who has (after all, isn’t that what friends are for – giving you the low-down on the places you haven’t yet discovered!) Apparently, it’s a very chilled out space, with good cocktails and a good wine list. Hanging out in the space outside was a great people watching spot, so it’s a mellower space than upstairs at Fat Eddie’s me thinks.

I’d love to hear of anyone else’s experiences and what cocktails they can recommend!

Why would you want to dine in a stuffy old conference when you could hang out here?

Way more ambience than your average conference centre

So by now at least a few of you eager beavers will have had a good poke around in this year’s conference programme so you’ll probably know that we’ve decided to go for something a bit different on the social side of things in 2009.

I have to admit when I first heard that there wasn’t going to be a conference dinner I was a little deflated.  Of course we all go to conference to be inspired and to learn and share but let’s face it the chance to schmooze, network and have a bit of a knees up with colleagues from around the country is a big part of the experience too (I still have trouble explaining to my civilian friends that librarians en masse = party but there’s no convincing some people).

So some of you may well be grumbling a bit about it, and fair enough, it’s not like we get a lot of slap up dos to go to is it?  Where are our Oscars?  Our Grammys?  Our Golden Guitars?  But I have to say that I’ve been really impressed with the Social Sub-committee’s ability to, if I may borrow the conference slogan from last year, think “outside the box” and be innovative in their approach.  After all, necessity is the mother of invention.  They’ve put together a really cool package and secured one of the hippest and most dynamic precincts in Christchurch for our use and I for one am really looking forward to it.

Basically SOL Square (SOL standing for “South Of Lichfield”) is a quadrant of bars and eateries that offers something for everyone.  So if you’re looking to have a full meal, yakitori, champagne or just bar snacks the venues in the area can provide.  Also there’s a range of “ambience” on offer so while some of you may wish to stick to a cosy corner in a wine bar, others may choose to shake their booty under disco balls at Culture Club, and yet others might like to get into enthusiastic conversation in the retro-time-warp environs of The Fish & Chip shop.

All the bars, cafés and restaurants are in close proximity to each other around a central courtyard so “bar-hopping” is easy and you’ll be able to flit about as you please or stay put if you like where you are.  Another positive of not being tied to a formal dinner venue is that those not officially attending conference will be able to come and hang out.

If you’re a little bit curious about what SOL Square might be like, take a look at the pictures we took on our very strenuous “scouting mission” last month (it’s a tough job but somebody’s got to do it) or have a look at the Flickr snaps of others.

If you’ve got any comments to make about the non-trad nature of conference’s social event this year feel free to share them with us.

We’ll be getting into the nitty gritty of the conference programme right here on the blog in coming weeks with our top picks, more info on speakers, guides to the best that Christchurch has to offer and much, much more so check back here often.