This week, Paddington welcomes a moodily lit drinking den to the ground floor of a boutique hotel. At street level, Busby's runs the full length of Oxford House, arriving as yet another big 2023 opening from Public Hospitality Group. Vinyl will spin full-time, while the focus on the booze front is natural wine and grape-forward cocktails.
“We felt like [Busby’s] really rounded out the precinct,” Ed Loveday tells Broadsheet, referring to the high-vibe pocket of Oxford Street where the hotel and El Primo Sanchez sit. Loveday worked as a consultant on the project (via his agency Studio AM:PM), together with some of Sydney’s finest: Public’s culinary director Clayton Wells on food, Mike Bennie on the wine and the award-winning Maybe Sammy’s Paolo Maffietti on cocktails.
Busby’s completes the hotel’s offering, which boasts a pool club and relaxed bar, alongside 55 rooms. “You might start your afternoon in the pool bar, then you have two options: move into Busby’s for some wine and snacks or move over to El Primo and swing from the rafters.” That, or a mezcal in bar-in-a-bar La Prima.
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Back at Busby’s, Wells’s food is approachable – no fluff. If you want a quick snack and a glass of something chilly, you’re looked after. Similarly, if you’re looking to stay a while, the menu can be meandered through. AP Bakery’s more-ish fenugreek and sesame loaf smeared with smoked butter, maybe? Or Hervey Bay scallops served warm and doused in lemon and wakame dressing? “For me, it’s the fried potato with herbed cream cheese and trout roe,” Loveday says. “Who doesn’t love a fried potato? Clayton’s version is pretty spectacular.”
The offerings are as inventive (chicken liver parfait with a spiced pineapple and liquorice condiment) as they are approachable: classic tiger prawn rolls or Sydney rock oysters topped with roasted kelp oil and blackberry vinegar. A lesser-seen pasta shape – creste di gallo, a rooster-crest-like design – is the ideal vessel for Wells’s silky vodka sauce. Meanwhile, a tomato salad brings shiso, berries and a zesty mustard dressing – though it’s likely to shapeshift with the seasons. “As the summer fruits roll through, Clayton will mix that salad up. December might be tomato and peach, then when we get into February and March, as plums come in, he’ll rotate them through.”
Bennie has worked his usual magic with a line-up of wines from Australia, France and Italy. There’s an extremely drinkable gamay from Le Juice, plus a NSW-produced chardonnay from Chateau Acid. A tight cocktail list is a confident one – and Maffietti has delivered. The five quick-to-make drinks star grape-forward liquors (like grappa, vermouth and moscato), each a nice counterpoint before you jump into the juice. Highlights include the gingery, grappa-and-pastis-based Megatone or Abbey Road’s citrusy mix of vermouth and champagne.
The hi-fi focus has been a collaborative process, too. Across Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, vinyl selections from Jonti (of Stones Throw Records, who will be bringing his personal record collection and a live element), the Santamaria Brothers and Milli will be in residence. Monday through Wednesday will see Loveday or other staff spinning the in-house collection. “We don’t want to be considered a purist hi-fi audio venue, but we have a strong focus on sound. It’s been a big collab, but it’s felt comfortable. We’ve created a space we all want to hang out in – the commonality there is the love for good music.”
Word is, a BYOR (that’s bring-your-own-records) night is on the cards, plus an ever-expanding house collection. The opening discs will deliver beauties like Grace Jones’s Nightclubbing and live recordings of classic artists.