IT'S kind of hard to believe that the Bay's Boardwalk complex has been around for 12 years already. It seems like just the other day that the City Slukker was sitting on the deck at Barney's watching it being constructed and waiting in anticipation for the eateries and pubs it would offer.
Of course, if you sit at the same pozzie now, you can watch it still being constructed. But that's just because of the major overhaul the centre is undergoing, which at this stage looks pretty impressive.
One of the spots that has undergone something of a transformation (executed in just 10 days) is the News Cafe not far from the casino entrance, which has been a trendy gathering point for good sluks, munchies and a friendly crowd for the past 10 years.
The City Slukker gets around a bit and he's been to quite a few of the franchises countrywide. Unlike some other establishments, which are facsimiles of one another, the News Cafe outlets each have their own individual character.
Like the ones in Rivonia, Northriding, Boksburg and Umhlanga which are all very different but have that distinctive upmarket vibe which sets this chain apart.
CS is pretty impressed with the changes that have been made at the Bay pozzie – it's got a nice, super-clean, marble bar top with olive green walls which create a mellow vibe. The snazzy, comfortable new barstools also add to the relaxed chill-out factor.
And then there's the regular (and of course appropriate) newspaper rack which the slukker has always liked, and which is, most importantly, stocked with up-to-date publications. How many times do you see a similar feature elsewhere with newspapers that are two or three days old? Often, in CS's experience.
While the liquor displays are well lit, adding a zesty touch, there seems to be just a little too much "white light" over the bar for a cocktail venue ambience.
Service here has always been good and with a small battery of efficient bar staff the slukker's thirst has never gone unsatisfied – although at R17 for a regular Castle bottle, it's a wee heavy on the pocket.
The lager has always been properly chilled though, so that's a plus.
And the pressure on the wallet can be eased with the Cocktail Rush between 5pm and 7pm, which sees News Cafe's signature classic, original, martini and mojito concoctions going for just R19.95.
These are real party affair sluks, like the original "faithful bitch" which is made up of Smirnoff triple distilled vodka with Tang sour apple and lemonade, touched up with grenadine that usually goes for 40 bucks.
There's also a great breakfast special on at the moment between 9am and 11am – eggs, bacon, tomato, chips and toast for just R19.95.
While it does have a properly sealed off smoking section, the spot still doesn't have its own ablutions. But the complex's general restrooms are close by, and considering they are open to general public traffic, are clearly checked on often and kept in pretty good nick.