The old wall tiles remain, and the carpet (new, but artfully splattered with black marks) pays homage to the griminess of the original Clare on Broadway. But that's where the similarities end. Sitting at the entrance to the new Kensington Street precinct, the new lobby bar of the Old Clare Hotel is a swish new cocktail spot far removed from its past life.
“We wanted to keep the integrity of what it was before; we didn't want it to be a pretentious bar,” says Matt Fairhurst, drinks manager of The Clare Bar. And the renovation has been thoughtful – albeit a little unadventurous – with the tiles still a dominant feature (though these days they probably won't need to be hosed down) and the big new circular bar providing a handsome centrepiece for the room.
At the bar you can still swill Reschs, but you can also sip beers from Murray's Craft Brewing Co., Batch and Lord Nelson. And there's even wilder stuff such as the Red Duck Hop Shark Anglo-American Ale. A mainly local wine list offers three whites and three reds by the glass, and a couple more of each by the bottle.
Cocktails are the focus, though. “We offer serious drinks that don't take themselves too seriously,” says Fairhurst. Hence the puns. There's the Barley Davidson, Give Peas a Chance, and the Love Oolong Thyme. An A-Salt and Batter-Y is butter and bacon-washed rye with doughnut syrup and coffee bitters. The Strange Fred Fellows mixes Aperol, bitters, lemon, egg white and Murray's IPA beer.
For now The Clare doesn't serve food (a kitchen is currently being built), but new dining hotspots Automata and Silvereye, plus Spice Alley and the soon-to-open Kensington Street Social, are mere steps away. Also in the works is the new poolside bar on the hotel's rooftop, which is scheduled to open in November. “We'll do Spritzes up there, our take on a Gin & Tonic. It will have a completely different feel to the downstairs bar.”
Kensington Street Social at the Old Clare Hotel is currently hiring front and back-of-house staff. See the positions advertised on Scout.