After 20 years of sitting dormant, a stately stone edifice is born again: as a slick bar and terrace, modern Greek restaurant and New York-style event space
That façade! As anyone with eyes will agree, 131 King William Street is an impressive example of architecture. Built in 1901 to accommodate the employees of the Citizens Life Assurance Co, the three-storey heritage-listed building – fronted with Corinthian columns, shapely balusters and muscle-clad gargoyles – exudes dignity.
It seems criminal that such a beauty could sit empty for 20 years. But that’s exactly what happened, until Electra House brought it back to life as a multi-spaced venue for mid-city revelry. This sensitively re-vamped triple-decker of real estate now consists of a ground floor bar and beer garden; upscale Greek restaurant on the first floor; and two New York loft-style function spaces at the top. Suddenly, this noble edifice is electrified with contemporary chutzpah.
On a balmy night, bee-line for the beer garden – an angular brick-and-glass terrace on the side of the main building that buzzes with after-work office bods. The steel staircase ascending to the first-floor restaurant wouldn’t be out of place in an airport – but it does establish an ambitious tone: out to impress. No one dresses down here.
Inside, the main bar is a knockout: all soaring ceilings, black cane barstools, tan leather booths, mosaic tiles, ashen hues and tall sash windows the size of pool tables. High-powered professionals mill about the bar; cocktail, spirit or wine in hand. Electra consciously bucks the craft beer groundswell, in deference to more classic tipples (order a Lobethal Bierhaus Bohemian Pilsner from the Adelaide Hills if you must, but everyone will be on Tanqueray and 21-year-old Glen Livet).
Bar staff are coolly efficient, managing to smooth over the surprising absence of tomato juice (we fancied a Bloody Mary), and the disappointing departure of the Louisiana ‘Po Boy’ from the bar food menu (we go for a NYC cheese burger instead). Generously sized and reasonably priced, bar food offerings include Korean spiced chicken wings, a Spanish deli board and a rather anatomical soft-shell crab souvlaki (large half-crabs stuffed into a thick pita roll with a side of curly fries).
DJs commandeer the party vibes on Friday nights, when Electra is full and definitely at its most atmospheric. Visit on a Tuesday afternoon and the empty, cavernous space can be a little daunting.
On the way out, pass the decommissioned elevator and detour via the lofty old stairwell to have a peek at OLEA – a bright, blonde-coloured room and the domain of Executive Chef Alfonso Alés (from Spain), who presents a sophisticated new destination for modern Greek dining.
|Venue name:||Electra House||Contact:|
131 King William Street
|Opening hours:||Mon-Sat 11am-late|