744 Hunter Street, Newcastle West.
The team behind Newcastle’s Tiki-inspired rum bar, Blue Kahunas, has officially opened their new bar, Bar Mellow. This time, the couple behind both venues, Prudence and Byron are moving away from rum and will be focussed on wine (mostly natural wines) and a carefully curated selection of classic cocktails – think Aperol Spritz, Negroni and Espresso Martinis.
Situated on the ground floor in one of Newcastle’s most beautiful buildings, Bank Corner on Hunter Street, this new addition will bring a swanky edge to this New South Wales coastal town, which has a booming small bar scene.
“That’s when we saw that Bank Corner Ground Floor had become available. The opportunity was too great to not take the risk. It’s a beautiful heritage building from 1922. I believe the foundations of the building go back even further and I’m very keen to look more into the history as it’s an iconic building for Newcastle. We are very lucky and thankful to get our hands on it!” – Prudence Farquhar, Co-owner
In fact, the face of Newcastle has changed dramatically in the past decade. According to a story in the Newcastle Herald in November this year, the median house price in Newcastle has overtaken the median house price in Melbourne. Newcastle has been touted as the ‘next big thing’ and investment has poured into the town. The NSW Government has slated an investment of $650 million to deliver more public spaces and light rail, with population expected to grow by 40,000 by 2041.
COVID also gave cities like Newcastle and Wollongong a massive boost, thanks to virtual offices and the appeal of (slightly) more affordable housing. No longer a sleepy industrial steel town, Newcastle has all the drawcards. A harbour, beautiful stretches of pristine beaches and free-flowing traffic. And now, one of the best small bar scenes in the country.
Bars like Blue Kahunas, The Rum Diary Bar, Scotties, The Falcon, Coal & Cedar, Uptowns, The Ship Inn, Babylon, Jam’s and many others have paved the way for more bars to add to the fabric of this burgeoning town. We asked Prudence Farquhar about opening a new bar in a pandemic and what she thinks about the Newcastle bar scene.
Q&A: Prudence Farquhar
You and your partner also have Blue Kahunas, what made you want to open a new venue in a pandemic?
We love a challenge, we want to grow our business for stability and having an outlet for our creativity. When we initiated looking for spaces and entertaining the idea of actioning a second bar, we were on the other side of the first lock down, things were looking great! I think there was a small element of being hopeful and naïve but also seeing the silver lining of certain spaces becoming empty due to offices moving out. That’s when we saw that Bank Corner Ground Floor had become available. The opportunity was too great to not take the risk. It’s a beautiful heritage building from 1922. I believe the foundations of the building go back even further and I’m very keen to look more into the history as it’s an iconic building for Newcastle. We are very lucky and thankful to get our hands on it!
The Newcastle bar scene is really growing. What are some of the places you like? And where do you see it developing in the next few years?
We love Scotties and The Falcon. There are more small bars and restaurant bars popping up especially now the Small Bar and Restaurant Trial was hugely successful with licensing conditions scaled back to reflect the rest of the state. These venues are displaying the local produce that surrounds Newcastle. And it’s great to see young people giving it a go being an accessible city. Newcastle has quirky and interesting spaces in every nook and cranny alongside plenty of new developments occurring.
Tell us a little bit about Bar Mellow?
Bar Mellow is a warm, relaxing and vibrant venue celebrating natural wine, simple and refined cocktails, alongside snacks that compliment what you’re drinking. The high ceilings and large heritage windows showcase the beauty of the building and allow an incredible amount of natural light in, with warm colours throughout.
How long did it take to get the doors open?
Lease signed in January 2021 – opened our doors October 28th, 2021. So quite a while in between. It was an empty shell and we started from scratch. Byron and I are super hands on in the process of construction alongside our builder Pat McDonald and other trades.
What the drinks focus? Some highlights?
Wine and cocktails, 70 to 80 per cent of our wine menu falls under the ‘natural’ wine umbrella which is exciting and fun for Newcastle. There is a strong cocktail program of classics and originals on the menu. Very refined, tasty and simple cocktails.
We have a little riff on a Bamboo Cocktail – Pretty & Peachy; Fino Sherry, Dry Vermouth & Peach Aperitif – perfect afternoon cocktail. We now have a cocktail tap, this is the first time Byron, myself and the team get to play around with this feature.
Who is on the team?
Byron, myself and a new young and fresh team of six. Gabrielle Howell is being trained into Bar Manager and Peter Williams into Bar Supervisor. We really love the attitude of the team and taking the time and effort to train and upskill is a great opportunity for them.
How’s it going so far?
It’s going great, the general feedback has been really comforting and humbling. Everyone in Newcastle is eager for more small bars to open.
What are your hopes for 2022?
Hopes for 2022 – to have teeny weeny holiday! Jokes aside, we’d love to just see Blue Kahunas develop further and Bar Mellow become more established and grounded. We are hoping to focus on exciting events for both venues now there are less disruptions (fingers crossed).