Anyone saddened by the close of the Sando could draw comfort from the news that it would soon be reborn as the Newtown Social Club, the Sydney cousin of such esteemed Melbourne venues asNorthcote Social Club and the Corner Hotel. But when the doors finally opened the first question everyone asked was, “Where do the bands go?”
The venue is only half the width of the old Sando, and due to some leasing disagreements the stairs ended up on the other side of a bare brick wall. There are plans to build a band room on the second floor – and a staircase to access it – but it’ll be at least a six month wait until those first amplified strums are heard.
In the meantime what we get is a good pub. There’s a stark, stone courtyard out the back, a plywood dining area that feels like a pop-up Swedish canteen, and the whole place is lit with the Newtown take on the exposed miner’s lights – big pearl bulbs hanging on red electrical cords. It all feels a little demountable, a fact not helped by the constantly fluctuating light levels – a circuit quirk, we’re told.
They’re catering to a pub-rock crowd here, with Reschs, Carlton, VB and two ciders on tap. Fat Yak is as 'craft' as things get. But if whisky is your poison, cast your eyes upon the spirit shelf where prime real estate is given to fire water from Islay, like Bruichladdich’ the Laddie 10, Ardbeg and Laphroaig.
They don’t go in for cocktails particularly, but there is usually a couple available if you ask nicely. On a cold night a Hot Toddy will warm you to the tips of your toes. If you like yours sweet then ask for a little extra here. This one is like an intoxicating tea, fragrant with cloves and lemon.
There’s big business in cheap dinners in this neck of the cash-strapped Inner West, and an eight-dollar pizza menu is a sure-fire way to keep musos, students, and the RSA fuzz happy. They are taking the red-sauce joint approach: anywhere doing a pizza with ham, chicken, salami, mince and smoky barbecue sauce clearly isn’t courting the traditionalist vote. However, they are tasty and cheap.
Once the gigs get going this will be a great all-in-one venue. Instead of meeting at a bar before and after a gig, you’ll get a beer and dinner downstairs, then head up for the show. In the meantime, waiting out winter with hot whisky in hand, the Tallest Man On Earth on the stereo and a pizza on its way works for us.