Knox Street Bar
This cement-walled drinking dungeon hosts live music, storytelling, burlesque and drink-and-draw classes.
If you're unfamiliar with the little inner-city suburb sandwiched between Victoria and Prince Alfred Parks known as Chippendale, it will do you good to pay its streets, home to the once renowned Carlton & United Brewery, a visit. In particular you should find your way to the corner of Shepherd and Knox Streets and through the dangling PVC noise-cancelling sheets of the newly opened Knox Street Bar.
An unassuming and fabulously dingy garage-type hang-out tucked down and behind speciality coffee cafe The House, Knox Street Bar began its journey over 18 months ago, built piece by piece from a fairly unforgiving space. According to owner and occasional chef Bjorn Godwin, however, this was a blessing in disguise, allowing the venue to evolve, influenced by the hard work and creativity of his individual team members.
Youthful ingenuity helped develop this place into what it is today. It's there in the rainbow cocktail-deciding spinning wheel, in the bar-top balance scale allowing punters to contemplate the tough questions in life by leaving tips in one of two glasses (on our visit: Kanye West or herpes, what's better?), in the snare drum lights illuminating the separate function area and in the Chesty Bond-inspired fountain (sculpted by Godwin himself) that introduces a little connection between the two rooms. FYI, if you were wondering, herpes won.
The talent behind the bar, however, is certainly mature. Our negroni (all classic cocktails $17) came swiftly delivered with its appropriately large hunk of ice, and when we decided to give into fate via a whirl of the wheel ($13 for whatever you land on), we were more than pleasantly surprised with the violet-infused Ginuwine Pony ($16) that takes a Hendricks gin martini to subtly sweeter heights.
Another highlight drinks-wise is the on-tap ales ($8) and two ciders ($7) from Ironbridge Brewery, a Petersham venture choosing Knox Street as their first distributer. A cider-lover through and through, personally I couldn't get over the crisp flavour of both offerings, without all the unnecessary sweetness that seems to have become synonymous with this ye olde English apple thirst-quencher.
As food goes, these guys are keeping it simple. We popped in on a Sunday after the first 'garage party' that offered pork sausage garage dogs or crinkle cut hot chips. Sadly by the time we arrived, we missed our chance to hop the dog — not entirely unsurprising when 100 hungry mouths were making noise earlier in the day — but the chips were good and came with some cracking aioli. In the future the plan is to collaborate with local food trucks and create an ever-changing menu of pop-up offerings. They're starting this week with the Veggie Patch van, who'll be doing a six-eight week residency every night except Sunday.
And it's this collaboration and community spirit that really makes Knox Street Bar one to watch out for. According to Godwin, neighbours have already been invited in to ensure they feel at home with a bar next door. Let's just say, for a place that's been open only a couple of weeks, bustling away above an underground stream that once fed the aforementioned Chippendale-iconic booze factory, Knox Street Bar is already on its way to becoming a local institution.