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Review: Trying to Have a Good Night Out at Willis Lane

Good Times Had by Ethan Rogacion and Will Irvine

This article is sponsored by Willis Lane.

The unthinkable has happened and Salient has finally gone outside! We haven’t gone so far as to go out into nature or anythingWill would get culture shock. Instead, we bravely ventured where (probably) no student has ever been before: Willis Lane on a Friday night.

Opening last year to rave reviews, Wellington’s (relatively) new entertainment venue is home to a number of restaurants, activities, and bars. Thanks to our friends at Willis Lane, the Salient team enjoyed a night on the town, underground: as the trimester wraps up, our honest take is that Willis Lane is a pretty good spot to have a little end-of-tri treat!


Eaten by Will

Wilson's BBQ | BBQ Loaded Fries

It would take a cold day in hell to convince me to like barbeque sauce. Fortunately, this dish did exactly that. When I tell you cheesy goodness, well-grilled meat, and layers and layers of sauce, you'd better believe it. I've only ever really had meat on chips in a Turkish context, so this was a delightful and welcome surprise. My only quibble was the texture of the chips, which felt oily and undercooked. Fortunately, the sheer luxury of the toppings made up for it.

Angry Ramen | Kimchi Karaage Bowl

Ah, Kimchi. The sauerkraut of the far East. You beautiful, spicy, flirtatious little minx. I’ve never hated kimchi, but perhaps at times I have feared it—its boldness, its lack of boundaries. As for the humble karaage donburi, I feared that years of TJ Katsu exposure therapy had conditioned me to expect oily, saucy noodles, and turn away at anything dryer. Not so! The tart and slightly spicy Kimchi drew me in to the warm, rich flavours of the karaage chicken. In a word? Entranced. 

Crack Chicken | Garlic Soy Chicken 

When I tell you this is my favourite type of crack on the market, let it be known that there is tough competition. I had already hyped myself up for Crack Chicken—I’m a frequent user of their product (some would say a Crack addict) and I was shivering, sweating, and drooling to go back. I wasn’t disappointed. The chicken was delightfully sweet and perfectly cooked. I’m already experiencing the cravingssomeone put me in rehab before it’s too late.

Rick’s Cheese Steaks - Philly Cheesesteak

Two words. Cheese. Steak. If you’re not sold by now, only God can help you. The Cheesesteak is an invention straight from the city that brought you Gritty, Always Sunny, and the Kelce brothers. It matches up to all three of those in its sheer audacity—mountains of cheese in soft baguette bread smeared over shredded steak. Folks, there really is nothing else to it. This, amongst all foods we sampled, was crowned the greatest hangover food if your night amongst the delights of Willis Lane left you with a mean headache and a sore tummy, venture on down to Rick’s and get yourself a little slice of Nirvana. Nothing could be more simple. Nothing could be better. 

ActivitiesEnjoyed by Ethan

Archie Brothers - Bowling and Arcade Games

God I love an arcade. Truly, nothing says fun to me more than a room of colourful lights, loud machines, and poorly localised Japanese games. Wellington is pretty dry on arcades: while Aucklanders seemingly just need to round a corner to gamble away their life savings on claw machines, we only have… one or MAYBE two arcades. Well, Archie Brothers certainly outshines the competition: we were treated to Archie’s “Fun Bundle”, which is an hour of unlimited arcade games, a round of bowling, and a round of minigolf. It was, in fact, a bundle of fun

It turns out that bowling, a relatively boring sport, is made a lot more interesting when everyone is pretty shit at it! Despite my very best efforts, I hit a number of gutterballs, which becomes a lot less embarrassing when everyone else is also getting a number of gutterballs. Who would have guessed that being drunk would mean that it's harder to hit a strike! I did manage to lock in, though, hitting a couple of strikes, because I am cool and awesome. However, it wasn’t enough, and in the endafter hitting two gutters and then accidentally rolling for HenryI had no choice but to concede defeat. Congratulations to Cedar, Salient’s bowling champion.

After a quick stop to the baryes, this place has real grown-up alcoholwe headed into the arcade! Archie Brothers is home to all your favourite video game characters: Mario from Mario Kart, the hippos from Hungry Hungry Hippos, and the arrows from Dance Dance Revolution! Honestly, if you aren’t convinced by the concept of having competitive fun with your friends, while having easy access to whatever spirits you wish to imbibe, I don’t know what to tell you. Go do some karaoke or something… oh wait! Archie’s has that too! Gotcha.

Holey Moley - Mini Golf

Okay, mini golf is a tough ask at the best of times. It is, I think, the Cards Against Humanity of sports: fun for the first few rounds, but gets drier and drier as you go on. And when you factor in that Holey Moley’s main competition in the tough and competitive mini golf market is Carlucci Landwith its avant-garde sculptures and lighting displaysit isn’t poised for the greatest success. [Editor's note: The biggest competition is Witching Hour. You will be terrified by a life-size animatronic clown that screams at you. Or maybe it only screams in my nightmares…] Unfortunately, Holey Moley left a bit to be desired. While the designs were all fun, the holes were a bit… small and not challenging. I guess when you’ve been tasked with fitting as many mini golf courses into a room as possible, you can only do so much, but still. We still enjoyed it, but whether it warrants a repeat is dubious. Congratulations to Gemma, the editor’s brother's girlfriend, for winning the round (she doesn't even go here).

Final Thoughts

In all honesty, I barely go out to town nowadays. I much more enjoy a flat party, where I can just have some fun and meet some people in a more intimate (cheap) environment, compared to the loud, fresher-filled chaos of a nightclub. But, I feel like Willis Lane captures the fun of bothactivities, good food, good drinkand, better still, has it all under the same roof. While, yes, we were sponsored to go, these are our true honest thoughts. And! They have student deals on Wednesdays! I genuinely didn’t know that until I started writing this review: cheap drinks and food. Who could possibly complain about that?


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