A pool room full of Bob Hawke memorabilia, deep-fried Viennetta cake, and the tick of approval from Anthony Albanese – a new 1980s-inspired pub has officially opened its doors in Sydney.
The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre is the latest addition to the streets of Marrickville in the city’s inner west, and has already been drawing crowds since it opened at the end of March.
There’s plenty to do inside with a brewery taking up the top floor, a pool room dedicated to the late Prime Minister downstairs, its own Chinese-Australian restaurant The Lucky Prawn, and some of the best of Hawke’s beers on tap.
The 2,100 square metre venue seats 300 and is the first bricks-and-mortar brewery from the Hawke’s Brewing Company, co-founded by beer-skolling Hawke and a pair of Aussie mates Nathan Lennon and David Gibson.
Last weekend Mr Albanese stopped by for a drink, leaving his own mark on the The RJLH Pool Room with a photo of his younger self taken in 1986, clad in a denim jacket standing beside a beaming Hawke.
Anthony Albanese has given his tick of approval to Marrickville’s Bob Hawke Beer and Leisure Centre
The venue opened at the end of March and has already drawn in crowds
Inside is a pool room filled with Bob Hawke memorabilia
Hawke is seen drinking the first sip of a Hawke’s beer in 2017 before his death in 2019
The museum-style pool room is based on the very same one Hawke had in his own house in Northbridge.
It’s filled with photographs of the beloved PM, anecdotes about his life and time in office and even has his old golf clubs and a treasured cigar humidifier.
The charm of the venue is that in its entirety it’s a trip back in time.
Fitted out with wooden panels, decorative carpet and giant beer tanks, diners are immediately sent back to the 80s.
The top level hosts the brewery and a mezzanine level dubbed Sanctuary Cove, while downstairs is home to The Lucky Prawn – a mix of an RSL and a classic Chinese-Australian bistro.
The venue is a trip back in time to the 80s with a Chinese-Australian restaurant titled The Lucky Prawn
Mr Albanese is seen with a photograph of him and Hawke taken in 1986
Pictured is some of the memorabilia inside the venue in Sydney’s inner west
The walls are full of photos of the late PM who was adored by Australians across the country
Sizzling beef, sweet and sour pork, prawn toast and even ice-cream drizzled in Ice Magic are just some of the stars of the menu which was designed to be shared and served on a lazy Susan.
The retro bistro will strike a chord in many Aussies who grew up visiting Chinese-Australian style diners in regional towns, complete with paper menus and a decorative red carpet.
INSIDE THE LUCKY PRAWN
The Lucky Prawn is a main attraction at the Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre and I was keen to indulge in the traditional Chinese-Australian cuisine
The pub was filled with aromas of sweet and sour pork, sang choi bow and dumplings – while a waitress carrying a deep-friend Vienetta cake turned the heads of nearby diners
Sifting through the menu we decided on prawn dumplings, vegetable spring rolls, stir-fried noodles and steamed greens – and of course a Hawke’s beer
Other options included prawn toast, crab omelette, salt and pepper calamari and wontons
The service was quick and cheerful, and the meals generous in size and taste sending me home with two boxes of takeaway noodles
In another addition sure to win over the dog-loving locals, furry friends are also allowed in the outdoor seating area.
Inside at the bar are ten taps pouring some beloved Hawke’s lager as well as a rotation of ‘one-hit wonder’ releases. Patrons can also sip on a wine or kick a few cocktails back.
In a modern touch, the venue also has a 100kW rooftop solar farm.
Co-founder Mr Lennon said the ‘only sore point’ of their latest venture was that Hawke himself wasn’t around to see it.
‘It’s a huge shame,’ he told Daily Mail Australia.
‘We had lunch with Bob’s wife and daughter the other day and it’s a very emotional experience whenever they come in to see all the photographs of him – it’s bittersweet.’
Mr Lennon and Mr Gibson started the business back in 2017 with Hawke.
‘I don’t think he (Hawke) ever imagined that we were going to do what we have,’ Mr Lennon said, adding the pub gets regular visits from Hawke’s wife and family.
‘For us having spent enough time with Bob, we feel he would have loved it.’
But Hawke isn’t the only prime minister the pair have impressed with Mr Albanese stopping by a few times while the venue was being renovated, and once over the weekend.
‘Obviously he’s the prime minister but in many ways he’s very connected to Marrickville and to being an authentic local in the area,’ the co-founder said.
Crowds both young and age have stopped by the brewery since it opened at the end of March
A large photograph of a budgie-smuggler wearing Hawke is seen at the entrance
The bar offers ten of Hawke’s beers on tap
Hawke’s wife Blanche D’Alpuget is seen admiring photos of her late husband in the pool room
‘It’s a nice marriage of ”wow the prime minister’s visiting”, but it’s also like ”oh it’s Albo from around the corner”.’
Mr Lennon said the idea was born from his and Mr Gibson’s experience on working overseas and missing Australia.
The pair wanted to create a place that was undeniably Aussie and ‘filled with stuff only an Australian would get’.
‘The food is incredibly nostalgic with the Chinese-Australian bistro you’ll find attached to a bowlo in the middle of nowhere,’ Mr Lennon said.
‘We always liked idea of pool room to be like a museum for Bob. You can play pool have a few beers, and turn around and read a bit about him.
‘If you walk out of here learning something about Bob, that keeps his legacy alive.’
The prime minister took a wander through the pool room
Some tables have lazy Susans on them in a traditional touch
The photograph left by the PM shows him standing next to the then prime minister Hawke
Stir fry noodles and steamed greens are just some of the many items available on the menu
The venue also hosts its own souvenirs shop
Hawke died at the age of 89 in May, 2019, leading to an enormous outpouring of grief from many Australians.
The true blue Aussie larrikin was seen as the ‘man of the people’, and famously was immortalised by the Guinness Book of Records in 1954 for chugging 2.5 pints of beer in just 11 seconds.
Mr Hawke was the longest-serving Labor Prime Minister and had a string of achievements during his eight years in office.
He introduced Medicare in 1984, which became the country’s first affordable and universal health insurance.
Hawke was known as the ‘man of the people’ during his time in office
Pictured is a replica of Hawke’s famous Australia jacket
Hawke has been immortalised by the Marrickville brewery
That same year he outlawed gender discrimination in the workplace by introducing the Sex Discrimination Act.
Mr Hawke also took steps to reconcile with Indigenous Australians through a treaty and by replacing the Department of Aboriginal Affairs with an Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission.
But in the eyes of most he was simply adored for his down-to-earth Aussie spirit which the team at Hawke’s Brewing Co. are hoping they can replicate.
THE LIFE OF BOB HAWKE
- Born December 9, 1929 in Bordertown South Australia.
- A decade later his family moved to Perth, following the death of older brother Neil.
- Attended Perth Modern School before studying law at the University of Western Australia.
- Almost died in a motorbike accident.
- Took up a Rhodes scholarship but was only able to after his fiancee Hazel Masterton had an abortion, as it was only open to single men.
- While his research focused on wage determination, he became better known at Oxford for making the Guinness Book of Records for downing two and a half pints of beer in 12 seconds.
- After returning to Australia and marrying Hazel, he joined the Australian Council of Trade Unions.
- By 1969 he was ACTU president and the nation’s best known politician outside parliament.
MP to Prime Minister
- First attempted to enter parliament in 1963, losing to Liberal Hubert Opperman.
- Elected federal president of the Labor Party in 1973, while also ACTU president.
- He was prominent in protests in Canberra after the governor-general dismissed the Labor Whitlam government in 1975.
- Entered federal parliament at the 1980 election as MP for the Victorian seat of Wills.
- Became leader of the Labor Party February 1983, less than a month before the Liberal Fraser government called the election.
- Led the ALP to victory and became prime minister with the campaign slogan Bringing Australia Together.
Achievements as Prime Minister
- Opened the economy by floating the dollar and deregulating the financial system.
- Cut tariffs and reformed the tax system.
- Established Medicare in 1984.
- Led international efforts to protect Antarctica from mining and to save Tasmania’s Franklin Dam.
- Increased the old-age pension, doubled public housing funds and the number of childcare places.
- Established the Asia-Pacific Economic Corporation.
- Campaigned against apartheid in South Africa.
Downfall as Prime Minister
- In late 1998 Hawke and treasurer Paul Keating signed the Kirribilli House pact, where he promises to hand over to Mr Keating after the 1990 election.
- He reneged on the deal.
- After one failed attempt, Mr Keating toppled him in December 1991. It was the first time Labor voted out a serving prime minister.
- Married Hazel Masterson in Perth in 1956 and they divorced in 1995.
- The couple had four children: Susan, Stephen, Roslyn and Robert.
- He remarried in 1995 to Blanche d’Alpuget, the author of his 1982 biography.