ZanziBar - or the Oxford as many locals prefer to call it - occupies an important location in the history of Newtown. It was here in 1832 that Sam and Eliza Webster opened New Town Stores, from which Newtown takes its name. The owners quickly discovered that alcohol was more profitable and the New Town Store became the Daniel Webster Hotel, Newtown's first. While that building has long since been replaced, the Oxford also holds the honour of being Newtown's oldest pub.
ZanziBar was the first cab off the renovation rank. Unlike the Bank, the Oxford was kept open while it slowly and painfully transformed itself into a Moroccan themed bar - in fact there was a box on the counter for a while to suggest the bar's new name. As well as a new name, the Oxford got itself a new floor and Newtown's first rooftop bar from the renovations. The rooftop bar is the highlight; although thanks to the neighbours, numbers are strictly limited which means that access is often denied on a Friday/Saturday night, even though the bar appears empty. Pet hate - people who live in Newtown and complain about the noise at 9pm on a Saturday night. Move to Wahroonga.
The Moroccan theme divides locals - some find it tacky (which it is) but I appreciate the effort to distinguish itself from other bars in the area - and the middle floor in particular, with its middle eastern tapas bar, and lounges, is a welcome addition to the Newtown scene. Best of all, the tradition of late night cheese gerkins and bikkies was alive and kicking the last time the Mayor ducked in.
At one stage, the downstairs bar seemed exclusively for out-of-(New)towners, however Zanzibar has recently undergone a second, less drastic renovation that has toned down the more wacky Moroccan-ness and as a result the locals have returned, and indeed there's almost a Darlinghurst feel to it these days. It's still reliably tacky on Friday and Saturday night, and the bouncers are a lot more human than the trogdolytes across the road at the Townie.
Two mayoral thumbs up for the rooftop and one each for the lower floors.