Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Pub Talk I - The Bank Hotel

The new NSW anti-smoking laws, as delayed and watered down as they are, have been the trigger for a wave of renovations of the bars up down and just off King Street recently. That and the fact that some of them were getting pretty tatty (not that that's necessarily a bad thing).

Over the next couple of weeks, the Mayor will cast his eye of the evolution of Newtown's drinking establishments over the last 3-4 years.

1. The Bank Hotel

The Bank has copped the most severe make over, and by all accounts the most expensive. The bar was closed for more than a year, the owners recently saying that Railcorp approvals were a a significant factor in the delays. Fundamentally there's been a rebuild from top to bottom. Thankfully Sumalee Thai is back; but the chaotic tropical jungle of yore has been replaced by a boxed in neat courtyard, which seems much smaller and more organised, losing that 'lost in the wilds' feel it had. The food however is as good as it ever was - those who complain about the price of the dishes tend to overlook the size of them - it's a great place for sharers.

The extensive new outdoors areas illustrate perfectly the good and bad of the new smoking legislation. On the plus side, Newtown now has two/three great new outdoors locations for afternoon drinking, even in winter thanks to the heaters. On the other hand, these areas are so choccas with smokers it's almost impossible to breathe there. Unfortunately the most appealing outdoors places in pubs are now practically 'smokers only' zones.

The indoor mid-level (front bar, and Sleepers cocktail bar - now pretty much a walkway to the deck) has been done up in a pretty sterile Surry Hills kind of way; the upstairs lounges are more original but certainly a change from the usual Newtown feel. At least Wednesday nights are still Wednesday nights at the newly christened Velvet Room - boys be warned.

The Bank was always the 'classiest' bar in Newtown (no great achievement that) - with this renovation it's now more Surry Hills than some Surry Hills bars. The good news is that it's no longer necessary to take a taxi out of Newtown to get a dose of eye candy. The bad news, though (not unrelated) is that the wanker factor is definitely on the up. Overall a mayoral thumbs up for the new upstairs areas, and thumbs down for the downstairs.

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