Landmark Sydney live music pub The Lansdowne re-opens on June 15 under the new stewardship of Jake Smyth and Kenny Graham (Mary's, The Unicorn Hotel), offering bands, $10 lunches and a late-night menu that runs till two in the morning.
After being shuttered in August 2015, the building's future was in limbo until Smyth and Graham began developing it in January of this year. The whirlwind renovations involved moving the bands upstairs and food downstairs, installing a brand new kitchen and a new fit-out for the band room.
While the pair has put their stamp on the menu and drinks, Smyth is adamant about preserving the original pub's character in everything from the music being booked to the daily lunch menu being student-friendly.
"For us it's really about community - friendships and family and giving back. We don't want to charge $22 for a chuck steak that costs us about $2 to make," Smyth says.
That chuck steak is just one of the dishes up his sleeve, along with a daily roll and a mee goreng that he and chef Phil Morgan (late of Hartsyard, The Devonshire and The Unicorn) plan to design around seasonal ingredients found cheaply at the market.
"It's been a bit of a challenge to find things we can do for $10. Our venue isn't going to have pokies to subsidise our food menu. But we can be smart about it and still offer student meals done right."
The rest of the menu is similarly unpretentious, offering pizza, pasta and "Aussie traditional" fare like a fish-finger sandwich, as well as a late-night menu that starts Korean but will change in a couple of months to keep things interesting both for punters and the kitchen.
The Mary's burger is there in spirit, appearing on the menu as a "Mary's burger pizza": pickles, onion, mozzarella, American cheese and burger patties "rolled into little balls à la meatlovers", with a swirl of Mary's sauce on top.
Pizze will be rectangular, but lighter than a Detroit-style thanks to dough fermented over 48 hours and baked in custom pans. No thin crust and no wood firing. There'll also be a condiment bar so diners can customise their pepperoni or plain cheese slice - think chilli oil, "shit parmesan" and honey.
LP's Quality Meats make the pepperoni, which also appears on the meatlovers along with those balls of Mary's burger meat, bacon and a house barbecue sauce.
The pasta dishes - all of which come with an option of adding 'pig face' (house-cured guanciale) - include a "burnt tomato" and a carbonara, and will be done with egg noodles, in the wok.
"It's more efficient," Smyth reckons. "We can do the daily noodle dish and the pasta on the same burner. Plus we can give the pasta the kiss of the wok."
Other tricks include an homage to Porteño's Banana Old Fashioned, with banana-infused Jack Daniels blended with Cointreau and lime juice to make a Jack-uiri. The wine list, written by Smyth, has all your favourite natural labels with some one-off bottlings from Ochota Barrels and Blind Corner.
Smyth and Graham want to offer a similarly eclectic mix of live music most nights of the week, taking advantage of the venue's 400-person capacity and the smarts of local promoter brothers Matt and Dan Rule.
Artist Jessica Cochrane has put her touch on everything from the menu to the ceilings, working to her own brief, drawing, dripping paint and collaging over vintage Playboy photographs to create Dada-esque pieces.
"We want this place to be a bit naughty without being too clichéd," Smyth says.
Pasta in the wok? Natural wines alongside VB on tap? Doesn't sound like clichés will be a problem.
The Lansdowne, 2-6 City Rd, Chippendale, NSW. Open from June 15, lunch menu available from June 16. Mon-Sat, noon-3am, Sun, noon-midnight.