After much hype and anticipation, The Lansdowne is back and it's safe to say it's sticking to its roots — with a mantra of "seedy nights, live music and cheap food" proudly sung by the legendary men behind the resurrection, Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham (Mary's Newtown and The Unicorn Hotel).
The two twice said no to taking on the refurb before giving in to the gritty magic of the space. "When we finally came down for a walk through, we just fell in love," says Graham. "We've given it the facelift it deserves."
The grungy feel of the space is definitely still in tact, with the old concrete floors and paint-peeling walls still peeping through. But the downstairs area is now home to a shiny new pool table and dart board, while the pokies room has been swapped for rock 'n' roll pinball machines, complete with a disco ball. Those sticky green lounges have been replaced by high and low tables, a light-up dance floor and a DJ booth. It's a massive space — a labyrinth of rooms that all lead up and out to a two-floor smoking courtyard with plush teal lounges and multi-colour floor lighting.
Local artist Jessica Cochrane has given the space her own touch, complete with two Playboy wall collages, a candlelit shrine to the live music greats and pin-up girl covered bathrooms ceilings, aka "pisstine chapels".
Live music is the hero here, and the entire top floor is dedicated to getting some of the best bands in the business. "This can't be anything but a live music venue — how could we even try to convince ourselves that there's anything better for this place to be?" says Graham. "We absolutely want to foster young, cracking bands."
They've teamed up with renowned booker Matt Rule (The Music and Booze Co.) to this end, and worked with the producers of the new Sydney International Convention Centre to ensure top-notch acoustics — and we can confirm the sound is seriously impressive. They broke-in the room with a weekend's worth of secret gigs, which started with super-group Delta Riggs, The Preatures and Sticky Fingers taking to the stage.
The food is certainly simple, but not your usual Aussie pub food; there's not a schnitty in site. There's a full Detroit-style pizza menu, which features a Mary's burger pizza ($19), a non-Mary's (but still basically Mary's) barbecue cheeseburger ($17), a fish finger sambo ($16) and cauliflower mac 'n' cheese ($16). The late-night menu will change cuisines periodically, and is currently Korean — with kimchi pancakes ($10), and spam and cheese dogs ($12). They've also got a cocktail menu and locals Grifter and Young Henrys on tap, along with the requisite VB and Resch's — this is The Lansdowne, after all.
"Live music venues don't need it to be shit holes with dirt everywhere and cracked leather," says Graham. "We ratbags deserve a cool, luxurious spot to listen to awesome rock 'n' roll."
Images: Bodhi Liggett.