The Newmarket Hotel, before it's glitzy Melbourne Pub Group remake, was a quintessential suburban pub: some pokie machines in one corner, stains in the carpet, Formica tabletops and toothless geezers. It was also the host of Melbourne’s original tits’n’schnitz nights. And according to Rory Kent – local resident and the guy you might know from such classier exploits as spearheading the Young Guns of Wine awards – it was awesome.
“We'd go in large groups of girls and guys for a laugh. The whole package was incredibly ironic – from the elderly DJ with his ‘80s boom box playing music off cassettes, through to the 'entertainment'. The dancer would visit tables before their show with a plastic jug to collect payment and requests. If you put in $10 or $20 the lady would jump on the table, take everything off at your friend's place setting, and put a new definition on ‘schnitz’ and tits.”
Fast forward to 2013. The boobs and food experience is back, but this time, it’s being billed as a much classier affair.
The venue certainly holds up its end of the bargain. The event takes place in the Cellar Bar - Newmarket's recently re-launched kitsch-glam basement lounge where you’ll find groups of men in sports blazers and a scattering of well-preened girls throwing their cash at bottles of bubbles. For $30 entry, you're furnished with a crumbed pork or veal ciabatta and chips (with truffle salt. See? Classy as), and a five-minute show (culminating in nipple) on the hour.
That's a lot less boob per second, but is this a more accessible show for the boys and girls? In the name of journalism, Gemima Cody and Gram Morris weigh in.
We’re sitting, sandwich poised mid-air, watching a quartet of athletic dancers wink and waggle their way out of cardigans and bras to the upbeat tune of Dolly Parton's '9 To 5'. This isn’t the Moulin Rouge, but at the same time Schnitz’n’tits night isn’t awful. On the pro side, the gold tasseled room is '80s excess awesome, and they do great cocktails. In fact, we’re probably more aroused by the bartenders’ shaking skills than the dancers'. And price-wise, getting fed and flashed for $30 is a bargain by Melbourne standards. The problem for us is that neither the food nor the dancing really excels. The schnitzel sandwich is OK – wafer thin fillets wearing thick breadcrumb jackets in chewy, salad-stuffed ciabatta – but it’s not something we’d rush back for on its own. The dance show – although definitely less hard core than the old days – just isn’t polished enough to overcome the awkwardness of someone disrobing during dinner. We’re close enough to the stage to see the missteps, and the half-coquettish, half-King Street style routine means the crowd isn’t sure whether to holler or stay silent. Go once for shits and giggles. Or say no to mammaries and hit the bar on this weekend for martinis.
I was expecting a homely yet somewhat world-wearied woman named Marg to be half naked and taking our orders. What we got instead was an hourly show that was neither stripping nor burlesque. I spoke to one of the dancers briefly and she was quick to draw a line between stripper and showgirl. If you haven’t seen the 1995 movie and you don’t know what a showgirl is then think high school Rock Eistedford with breasts. I’m not really the market for this stuff but in the name of journalism I tried to be aroused. They’re beautiful girls and the dancing is 'hot', but trying to eat and get turned on in a room full of forty other men while Dolly Parton blares out of the speakers is a bit like trying to wee when you’ve got an erection. There's definitely a gap in the market for a Hooters-type restaurant in Australia, and with the right formula, something like this might work. By the way did you know Hooters had an airline in America? They went broke. True story.