It’s been open for less than a week, but Hotel Longtime is already getting plenty of attention – for all the wrong reasons. The Asian-themed gastropub on Grote Street has been criticised by some locals for “casual racism” and “cultural appropriation”, inspiring an online petition.
Condemnation is largely focused on the name, which some say references a quote from the 1987 Stanley Kubrick film Full Metal Jacket spoken by a Vietnamese sex worker to American soldiers during the Vietnam War. The quote has since been popularised in Western lexicon, often spoken in a denigrating “Asian” accent.
Husband and wife owners Alex Fahey and Tin Chu (who also own the popular Vietnamese Laundry) reject this interpretation. They tell Broadsheet the name references the lengthy time it took to get the place up and running.
“The hotel took almost a year to finish,” says Chu. “When we see someone achieve something successful, it always takes a long time.”
Speaking to the Advertiser earlier this week, Fahey described the name as “a bit of fun”.
Many have already taken to social media to give Hotel Longtime one-star reviews on Facebook. An online petition, started by Adelaide-raised, London-based Alice Whittington to convince Fahey and Chu to change the name, had 439 signatures at the time of publication. The pair currently has no intention of doing so.
"It's not a one-woman crusade against the venue itself," Whittington tells Broadsheet. "It's an attempt to highlight the racially damaging stereotype that affects millions of Asian people living around the world.”
"It's in the hundreds that I've had some version of 'me so horny', 'love you longtime' and 'two dollar sucky sucky' said to me."
Eyebrows have also been raised at the name of the front bar – the Ping Pong Club Room, which has been described by Fahey as a “gentleman’s lodge” – and the recurring image of an Asian woman known as the “madame” throughout the pub. Some claim these allude to Southeast Asia's sex tourism and ping-pong shows.
Chu, who moved to Australia from Lâm Đồng, Vietnam, in 2007, tells Broadsheet people “have it wrong”. “They haven’t come to our place to see what it is,” she says. “There’s actually a ping-pong table there. They assume it’s something that just isn’t there.”
“It’s nothing to do with the Thailand ping-pong shows,” Fahey also told the Advertiser.
For Whittington, “it's willfully ignorant at best.”
There’s no shortage of Australian restaurants built around racial stereotypes – there’s already a Longtime in Brisbane. Usually these venues are operated by owners with little knowledge or understanding of the history behind those stereotypes and their wider implications.
That’s not the play here. “It is worth remembering that I am a director of this licensee company and I am a proud Asian woman,” Chu told the Advertiser.
“I’m working hard, I try my best to achieve what we have, and we’re concentrating on our business,” she tells Broadsheet.
But it’s hard to deny the language and iconography of Hotel Longtime taps into still-enduring and potentially harmful stereotypes. (As an Asian-Australian, the name Hotel Longtime makes me uncomfortable, regardless of intention.)
It's a pity, too. Because it's clear Fahey and Chu have put their all into this venue, from the fit-out to the food.
Fahey, a carpenter by trade, completely overhauled the former Hampshire Hotel. Each room has a different style; the bright dining area is covered in pink panelling and deep-blue tiling. The back room – which doubles as a dance floor – looks like it’s come straight out of a Yoko Honda artwork; complete with a disco ball and retro Memphis-style (an Italian-born post-modern design movement popular in the ’80s) patterns.
Fahey and Chu designed the menu with chef Miles Davies. On it, you’ll find cheeseburger spring rolls, beef tartare in prawn crackers and kingfish tostada.
Chu’s favourite dish is the lamb shoulder, with flavours influenced by her youth in Vietnam. “We don’t have lamb in Vietnam, but we have beef. So it’s a little bit of a twist,” she says. “It has the flavour from my hometown … a lot of lemongrass, a lot of garlic, onion. It’s influenced by my grandma’s cooking.”
The wine list leans local, with Alpha Box & Dice, Delinquente and Palmetto Wine Co. on the roster. There’s also Asahi on tap, Japanese whiskies and bubble tea cocktails.
Additional reporting by Daniela Frangos
110 Grote Street, Adelaide
(08) 8410 8763
Tue to Thu 11.30am–midnight
Fri & Sat 11.30am–2am