As lockout laws push weekend revellers further outside the CBD, Newtown's King Street has long offered an alternative to areas like Kings Cross. Drinks are served until the pub shuts and the music is… well, the music is still pretty strictly policed. But the times, they are a-changing, according to Bourke St boss and new owner of the newly revamped Botany View Hotel, Paddy Coughlan, and we should be looking to the south. South King Street, that is.
The Sydney Park-end of Newtown's main drag hosts a slew of pubs that have carried the 'Keep Newtown Weird' flag for years, keeping the music loud and frequent, and punters happy with a good brew, great company, and especially live music. "I think that south end of King Street represents all that used to be good about Newtown in general, and a big part of that was live music," says Coughlan. "We need to support and foster music venues."
Under his ownership, the Botany View Hotel — which has undergone a low-key revamp, including a relaunch of the dining room — hosts live music every Friday and Saturday night to keep up the area's gig scene. Reviving the old vibe, for Coughlan, means maintaining the authentic edge of a pub's pub. "I like to think people come to our pubs for the authenticity of what we're doing, not because we've overthought every piece of furniture," he said.
The Botany View also aims to rehash the grub at the pub, looking to nail down a menu that the everyday punter can get behind with good quality produce and reasonably priced food. Though, with two of his other venues — The Lord Gladstone and The Lady Hampshire — serving their fair share of tacos and burgers, Coughlan has made this menu more "considered". The menu is less snacky, and leans towards knife-and-fork dining with dishes like the cauliflower tagine, a soft-shell crab spaghettini and a 'fancy' schnitzel with parsnip puree and chicken jus. They also do platters, including a vego one with zucchini fritters, haloumi, falafel and babaghanoush, and a $10 lunch menu Monday to Friday.
The revival of King Street's south end is already underway, with Coughlan pointing out stalwarts like the Union Hotel and the Sydney Park Hotel, as well as the Botany View Hotel, as part of "our own little community" — although we're sad to see the Newtown Social Club gone, which has reopened as a mini golf bar. With pubs like these continuing to support live music, good feeds, and cheap beers, Coughlan is confident the "that old Newtown vibe" is on its way back. "The already strong sense of community will get stronger," he says, which is something we can all raise our lighters to.
Images: Kimberley Low.