When one music venue closes its doors, another one opens, or at least this seems to be the way things are going down on South King Street of late. The Newtown Social Club may have gone to the big green room in the sky (it’s now a mini-golf bar called Holey Moley) but we’ve been gifted a new band room in its place, only a short walk further down the road.
The Botany View has been taken over by Paddy Coughlan (the guy behind the revamps of Chippendale’s Lord Gladstone and Camperdown’s Lady Hampshire), and he has restored this old pub to a Sydney muso hotspot with free live music in the front room every Friday and Saturday night. From 8pm, local bands set up where the old blues jammers used to sit, and instead of classic hits you’re more likely to get an indie-rock four-piece playing energetic originals. The room is filled to the brim with a rowdy rabble of 20 to 40 year olds and you’ll be hard pressed to find an audience member who isn’t head-bopping or dancing – the bands are a drawcard, not a thing you tolerate while downing a schooey.
Across the rest of the pub’s two storeys the atmosphere is equally as buzzy. Hipsters sink jugs in the upstairs beer garden; sports fanatics sprawl across couches with their eyes glued to the telly; young parents here for dinner wrangle their children; and pub regulars sit on bar stools sipping New. Anyone who thought pubs were done should see the three-deep queues at both bars here. The only place you can have an audible conversation without shouting is in the bathrooms.
The downstairs dining room is a family-friendly bistro that seats around 40 and serves above average pub grub at a corresponding higher price point. The cheapest meal is a beetroot salad or vegan barbeque tofu burger for $17, while the pointier end of the menu features crumbed lamb cutlets for $26 or a 300g sirloin steak for $29. They warn us that the food will take 45 minutes (there really are a lot of people in this joint) but they’re overestimating so that your 20-minute wait feels like a win. A medium rare, pan-fried salmon fillet has a crisp skin seasoned with citric sumac, but it’s the smoky eggplant puree that takes this dish from good to great. Group snacks come in the form of a mixed plate – $18 for a skewers, seafood or vegetarian snacks.
Cheap pub wine is still alive and kicking – seven dollars buys you a glass of Morgans Bay chardonnay, Rothbury Estate cab merlot or a Stony Peak sparkling. But if variety is your particular spice, look to the taps where there are 26 brews that stay in the shallow end of the brewing pool with Tooheys, Fourex, Grifter, Young Henrys and Kirin.
But the reason we’re all here is the tunes. Coughlan has been quietly pumping a little extra lifeblood into Sydney’s nightlife with his collection of party-friendly pubs where late nights and loud tunes are encouraged, and with the addition of the Botany View to his collection, Newtown’s locals seem only too happy to be swayed to the cause.