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Trend alert : The venues transporting diners back to their childhood

8 places that are harnessing the power of nostalgia

By Chloe Chaplin

Remember bubble skirts? Elastics? Playing outside after dark with a complete lack of supervision? Glorious.

In psychology, ‘the reminiscence bump’ is when adults fondly remember their youth, ignoring the bad bits and generally feeling awesome about it all. It’s powerful stuff, and it’s something that a number of bars, restaurants and cafés are capitalising on. Here are just a few we’ve spotted.

1. Cakes n Ladders, Auckland

With a range of cabinet food and a massive collection of card and board games, Cakes n Ladders has everything you need to dip back into childhood. Diners can opt for anything from the full Monopoly marathon (which ends when someone throws the board on the ground) or a more sedate Scrabble sesh.

2. Holey Moley – Quite literally, Australia wide – Hoorah.

Holey Moley calls itself a multi-sensory labyrinth mini golf course, it’s really just a stroll down memory lane while tapping a golf ball. Every branch has a different layout and themes, to make the most of the local vibes. Customers can hang out and have a beer on The Simpson’s couch, play Pac-Man or pinball, then try for a hole-in-one. It’s a hole lotta fun (get it?), with a bar at the end to cash in on those nostalgic feelings.

3. Dr Rudi’s Rooftop Brewing Co, Auckland

Having a few drinks on a rooftop bar overlooking Auckland’s Viaduct on a Friday afternoon sounds pretty amazing. Chuck in a couple of bowling lanes, and you’re taking things next level. Dr Rudi’s brings back the thrill of nailing a spare in pre-worn shoes, with drinks you don’t usually find at your local bowling alley.

4. Rowena Corner Store, Melbourne

What’s more nostalgic than being an actual 1950’s institution? Since 1956, Rowena has been a general store, tuck shop and milk bar. These days it combos excellent drinks and Greek food, with the best bits of a corner store and milk bar. Get a bag of Jaffas with your flat white: pure happiness.

5. Arcadia, Christchurch

Dinging noises, flashing lights and wasted pocket money: Arcadia has everything you need to whoosh you right back to your ill-spent youth. Add fish and chips, a pool table and 80s tunes, and all that’s missing is your mum telling you to do your homework first.

6. Counter Culture, Wellington

600 board games make Counter Culture a great place for a rainy afternoon. Customers take their families to recreate memories of childhood or hang with mates to recapture it. The food delivers the same vibe too, with dishes like cheese toasties, curly fries and burgers also making for easy one-handed eating.

7. 1989 Arcade Bar, Sydney

Space Invaders, Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Pac-Man and a whole host of other nostalgia-inducing classics await grown-up 1980s kids. Craft beer, a relaxed atmosphere and ‘geek-chic’ décor make 1989 Arcade Bar a place people will want to hang out in.

8. Marche Board Game Café, Melbourne

Board games, drinks, food and karaoke – what more do you need for a night out? Tapping into the market that wants an experience, not just food, Marche Board Game Café has an airy, quirky space and an extensive menu, with something for everyone. Come the evening, there’s also a chance to break out your karaoke go-tos (The Final Countdown, anyone?).

How you can make nostalgia part of your experience

While you don’t need to go all out with a ball pit or fireman’s pole (note to self: get ball pit), you can still create a fun space for your adult guests. That gives them a burst of feel-good nostalgia, so you can cash in on that reminiscence bump.

Start by thinking about what you’d like to find in a café or bar, then make it your own. Here are some other ideas:

Offer grown-up kiddy treats: Level up the quality of the ingredients a bit and you simply can’t beat childhood menu favourites for pleasing an adult crowd.


Have a board games area: It’s pretty cheap to buy a few board games and set aside a corner for people to enjoy with their G&Ts.

Play childhood hits: Whether you’re sticking to an era (hello again, The Pogues), or cheerful, kid-friendly tunes, music is a fast and easy way to set your vibe.

Bring in an arcade game or two: Add a Space Invaders or a classic Pac-Man in your bar to give bored millennials or nostalgic middle-aged men a great reason to linger.

Establish a putting green: This doesn’t have to be a ten-hole course – even just a simple putting green gives a distraction that’ll keep people at your place for longer.

Art supplies for grown-ups: Remember Cobb n’ Co colouring pencils and placemats? Same thing, just for grown-ups.

Install a jukebox: There’s something about playing music from a jukebox – it gives a fun, retro feel (and you can’t skip once you’ve heard the chorus).

Get a photo booth: Inspector Morse glasses with fake nose, those googly eyeglasses and a bunch of costumes from the $2 shop make your café or bar an Instagram dream.

Alternative seating: Beanbags are hard to exit, but they sure are fun when you’re down there. Try swing seats, lots of poofy throw cushions or a teepee, and watch people find joy in sitting down.

Make people feel good

If people come to your place, and the experience makes them feel good, they will come back again. It’s that simple. So, invest in some fun activities and amp up your décor a notch to bring back those teenager nostalgia vibes. Whether it’s adding a stash of board games or some art supplies for adult colouring-in, it’s easy to make your café or bar more than just a place to eat – make it a place to relive the good times.

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