The beloved Vanguard reopened in its old home in early 2019, replacing Leadbelly, which had occupied the space since 2016. Before that, The Vanguard was in situ for 13 years. The return to roots was the initiative of Arash Nabavi. The Sydney orthopaedic surgeon and first-time venue owner had bought Leadbelly May 2018 and had been gradually restoring its original identity.
"I think, all along, we wanted to reconnect with the heritage of the place — get it back to that classic, grungy, rock dog Sydney feel that has faded over the past few years," said Jodi Lewis, content marketing and programs manager at Nathan Farrell Entertainment, which books The Vanguard's live music.
Central to the change was a shakeup of the gig program. "It's more contemporary and more streamlined," said Lewis. "There are Triple J acts, but, at the same, we're not straying too far from blues, jazz, country and rock."
With the reopening came a revamp that brought in whizzbang sound equipment, an enormous green room, a renovated kitchen and new furniture. But the first things you'll thing notice when you visit are the dazzling red neon signs at the door and the massive mural by inner west design studio April77 Creative in the laneway.
"The feel is halfway between Leadbelly and the old Vanguard," said Lewis. "It's opulent, with velvet curtains and neon, but fresh and contemporary. I'd describe it as a grungy elegance."
The food and drink offerings have gone up a notch, too. Taps pour a variety of local craft brews, with Young Henrys tinnies also available, and the cocktail list features a lineup of modern and inventive drops, including the Power and the Passion (dark rum, peach, blood orange and passionfruit) and the Go with the Sloe (sloe gin, cognac, fresh apple, lemon butter and nutmeg). And the food menu offers a small selection of pizzas (with gluten-free bases available for $1.50 extra), mains and small and share plates. The mains all sit at $30 and offer a standard protein and veg, while the small and share plates consist of a whirlwind tour of the world via pub snacks — including chips with aioli, peri peri mozzarella sticks, karaage chicken, vego nachos, haloumi and pomegranate salad and mac and cheese balls.
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