Brunswick dwellers have always loved a good gig-pub, so turning the Spot into a less grungy version of other Sydney Road favourites was far from a dumb idea.
There’s been a lot of ‘rising from the ashes’ jokes bandied about, but we’re quite glad that the old Spot didn’t meet its end by raging inferno (and oh, it could have), if only because gems like the marble flooring- uncovered in the renovation – would have been lost. No, the transition was more of a clear-out plus facelift than a rebirth, resulting in an art deco inspired reception room that leads to a 290-capacity rock-your-socks-off band space.
In place of exposed bricks, graffiti and morbid stains, Phoenix has vintage chairs, a scattering of tables circa 1960, and some rather dashing palm frond wallpaper. It’s the sort of space where moustachioed gents in panama hats wouldn’t look out of place – which is lucky, because this candlelit pub is the new hang out for the asymmetric bob toting dudes and dames of the north (if you missed the memo, you better check on your cool factor). Not convinced? Get down there on a Tuesday night where they are holding 'hopscotch Tuesdays' – a weekly event that involves drinking $5 scotch, and throwing rocks about in street art scrawled grids to the sounds of some hip hop. The only problem we see arising here is that it's so cool that participants may have trouble masking their enthusiasm. Which we all know is uncool.
Booker for the Grace Darling, Paris Martine, is boss-of-music here, so on Thursdays through Sundays, get ready to spill beer all over yourself to the sounds of some solid bands.
Our pick of their beers is the Four Wives pilsner. Great name aside, the malt and hop heavy brew was born to go with chef Michael Baroud’s Middle Eastern menu. Try it with the haloumi sticks. The salty cheese is spiked with cinnamon, rolled up in pastry, fried and served with a sweet kicker of date molasses. It’s a salt, fat, sugar and beer fiesta – Baroud knows how your mouth likes to party. If you’re sticking around (they’re open till 3am, by the by), gird your loins with a DIY eye fillet kebab. You get a kit of two smoky seared beef skewers, a tumble of greens, soft pita and some tangy mustard labne (that's yoghurt, FYI). Wrap as you wish, and road test with a glass of the Pinacle de Fakra syrah – one of two Lebanese wines on the short, but not-too-shabby wine list.
Good snacks, good wine and good music? We wouldn’t kick the Phoenix out of bed.