We all go a bit cuckoo from time to time, and Newtown is getting a bar perfect for those crazy days and even crazier nights.
The Marlborough Hotel’s top floor has been transformed into a German alpine resort, complete with skis behind the bar, chicken schnitzels, oversized pretzels and lots of beer.
The new venue, Cuckoo, replaces Miss Peaches, which has operated upstairs at The Marly since 2013. It’ll be run by hospitality group Solotel, which is behind Barangaroo House, The Golden Sheaf, The Bank Hotel and Paddo Inn, among others.
“There was nothing wrong with Miss Peaches, but like with any concept you need to have a change,” Solotel experience director Tara Sullivan tells Broadsheet. “That whole Southern [theme] was great, but we wanted to do something different.”
Cuckoo is a hybrid venue – a little bit of pub, bar and nightclub mixed together. “We’re trying to [make something] where you can traverse all periods of the night. Come in early and have a schnitzel and beer, then later we’ll push back the tables and chairs so you can dance,” Sullivan says, adding that there’ll be live entertainment and DJs later in the evening.
The menu has a nostalgic edge, with bar snacks inspired by children’s parties and old-fashioned fairs. There are pluto pups (deep-fried battered frankfurters served on sticks) and a strudel-spring-roll hybrid (with cabbage, bacon, onion and carrot) that’s deep-fried in brik pastry.
“Eventually we want to be doing collaboration brews with [the local breweries],” says Drue Stevens, Solotel’s bar manager. “Hopefully we can get one out every couple of months.”
Stevens also makes a variety of schnapps in-house, such as apple, pear, peppermint and “bee-sting” – a riff on the classic German bienenstich (bee-sting cake), which is made with honey and almonds. The schnapps version uses honey from The Marly’s rooftop hives.
The cocktails are inspired by either traditional German drinks or things Stevens stumbled across during his research. Apfelschorle – a mix of soda water and apple juice popular in Germany – is reinvented here with whisky, apple juice and sparkling mineral water, and the Deer’s Blood Negroni is named after the rumoured key ingredient in Jagermeister. There won’t be any blood in the drink (it’s a myth), but there will be Jager and a house-made honey vermouth.
And then there are drinks that aren’t German at all. The Fontaine’s Revenge is a Mojito made with grapefruit, vanilla and peppermint, named after a RuPaul’s Drag Race contestant that went cuckoo for their “cucu”.
The venue is a mix of styles and elements – fresco-painted windows depicting the Alpines, Tudor-patterned walls, neon lights and even a rock-climbing wall. Sullivan says it’s all meant to keep you disoriented in a good way.
“Even as you enter through the staircase, there’s a different soundtrack playing [from downstairs and the main area] so there’s a bit of disjointedness,” Sullivan says. “We’re trying to interweave all these surreal experiences in the space.”
The name obviously comes from the cuckoo clock, but there’s a cuckoo’s nest craziness here, too.
“This is all about freedom of expression and being able to go out, have a dance and have fun with no judgement,” she says. “Being a bit cuckoo, being a bit mad.”
Cuckoo is slated to open upstairs at The Marlborough Hotel (145 King Street, Newtown) on October 18.