There Will Be Beer :: The Old Growler
May 30th 2013
A Guide to Sydney’s Pubs & Bars for Cheapskates and Drunkards:
The first time I went drinking in Kings Cross was a fairly depressing one.
I was at a farewell for a mate, who had decided to give up on life and just to move to Perth, when some bright spark said, “Hey, let’s take him to a strip club in the Cross.” I felt like Kurtz in the Heart of Darkness. The horror… The horror! Ever since I’ve had a rather jaded opinion of the Cross.
I’m not saying it’s terrible. There are a few pubs you can enjoy yourself in without worrying about a fistful of herpes being thrust in your general direction.
But my first experience, combined with the constant news barrage of street fights, drive-by shootings, drug deals and death, makes it hard not to think that the Cross is nothing more than a seedy cauldron of prostitutes, bouncers, and douche-bags who’ve watched The Warriors one too many times. However, a revolution is taking place, reclaiming the popular late night spot from the Underbelly wannabes. Small bars are cropping up all over the place, providing a safe haven for those who wish to avoid the hounding doormen and endless hordes of randy backpackers, simply wishing to drink and drink well.
The Old Growler is a perfect example of the metamorphosis that is slowly transforming the Cross.
Noticeably, it lacks the panache that has become the trademark of trendy Darlinghurst bars. You won’t find any retro furniture, posters of obscure bands and odd drinks, nor any kind of themed decoration. But, to be frank, small bars only put all that shit in to distract you from how small the bar really is, and give the bartenders a reason to mix up a particularly snazzy version of rum and coke. (Rum and vanilla coke, anyone?)
I do love a good themed bar (see Tio’s Cervecaria, Shady Pines Saloon or Baxter Inn for good examples), but something I have greater respect for is a bar that just says: “To hell with the grass skirts and hubcaps on the walls, you’re here to drink and enjoy yourself, not mope about because you’re not on the Hawaiian Island of Come-On-I-Wanna-Lay-Ya.”
When you walk into the Old Growler and see its stripped back walls and lights that are permanently set to a ‘late evening drinking’ glow, you get the feeling that when renovating they gave up trying to work out a theme and decided to just have a beer instead.
Young Henry’s is the only beer on tap (they do have other options in the fridges, not that you’ll need them). There are two glass sizes: teetotaler (half pint, $5) and the one you should be drinking from (pint, $9). There is also a quality cocktail list and a food menu that is mostly pig or pig-like products (thankfully they don’t feel the need for pig or pig-like paraphernalia adorning the walls as well). I checked it out on a Wednesday evening, and the lax midweek crowd meant that I could pull up a stool and have a chat with the bar staff – all of whom were friendly and enjoyed a good chinwag over a pint and a shot of rum.
The Old Growler is my kind of bar: bare-bones, no-frills and all about drinking with some good music in the background.
I’m not saying that Sydney doesn’t need more small bars with unique tastes and themes – but the ‘Just a bar to sit at with a beer and listen to a bit of Johnny Cash’ theme has just been snatched up. And the Cross is that much better for it.
216 – 218 William Street
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