The Sydney Park Hotel at the south end of King Street in Sydney’s inner-west suburb of Newtown might have opened in 1891, but not much has happened there to catch the attention of Sydneysiders or tourists. Until now.
The venue was bought by publican Ray Reilly (the Reilly Group portfolio includes The Henson in Marrickville and Petersham’s White Cockatoo) in 2016 for a reported $5 million. Now stage two of the major redevelopment – the accommodation – has just been completed.
The heritage status of the corner pub, which is moments from St Peters train station, meant the owners had to “jump through a lot of hoops” during construction says licensee Tommy Hall. It also put the opening of the rooms a few months behind schedule. The wait has been worth it.
There are eight rooms ranging from compact doubles to an oversized king complete with a separate sitting area and fireplace. To reach the rooms, guests climb the stairs at the back of the bar and open a shiny black door onto a long corridor with an eye-catching checkerboard floor. The walls are decorated with quirky inner-west-themed artworks from local artist Ginger Taylor.
The colour scheme in the rooms is black, white and grey with a few pops of gemstone hues from blankets and pillows. Original architectural features have been kept, including exposed brick walls in many of the rooms. The windows are double-glazed, so there’s no noise from the traffic outside or the pub below.
All rooms have wall-mounted TVs with Netflix and Stan, free wi-fi, complimentary snacks and water, a stack of magazines (Vogue, Frankie), and toiletries from Marrickville company Metis. Tasmanian-made recycled merino wool blankets from Seljak are draped over the beds and chairs.
There are no ensuites and guests use two sex-segregated shared bathrooms. Everything in the bathrooms is original and has been completely restored (“you can't get tiles like that anymore,” Hall says). The ladies is a bright salmon pink and the gents charcoal.
There’s also a communal dining room and kitchen with a stove, microwave, coffee maker (with complimentary pods in the rooms) and a full-size fridge.
Even though the Sydney Park Hotel has undergone huge changes it’s still a neighbourhood venue. “It's still a real locals crowd down here,” says Hall.
When Reilly purchased the pub it had no kitchen and no food offering. So the former owner’s private kitchen on the first floor was expanded into a commercial kitchen. Executive chef Meghan McCulloch (ex Reuben Hills) is in the kitchen; she previously worked her magic at The Henson.
The menu pays homage to Reilly’s Irish roots. There’s lamb and Guinness stew, Irish pork sausages, a Wagyu brisket cottage pie, and colcannon (a mix of mashed potatoes and cabbage) as a side dish. There’s also the usual pub fare: burgers, schnitties, parmas (both chicken and eggplant) and a roast on Sunday.
There are 15 mostly craft beers on tap, a short and interesting wine list, and half a dozen cocktails priced at a reasonable $10 to $14. Come on a Friday and buy a drink and get a ticket in what might just be Sydney’s best meat raffle – first prize is a huge tray from Dulwich Hill Gourmet Meats loaded with T-bones, lamb chops, pork spare ribs, sausages and rissoles.
Stage three of the redevelopment – the roof terrace – is still in the works. When completed the huge space will offer views over Sydney Park. Although apartments close by have nixed any chances of a bar, there are plenty of ways the space will be used. Hall has hopes for a movie screen with headphones for viewers, pool tables or even deck chairs for sunbathing.
Sydney Park Hotel
631 King Street, Newtown
(02) 9557 1188
Mon to Sat 10am–12am