I recently read the original Bond tagline was “stirred not shaken”; a statement, which launches lengthy discussion on how the reversing of these two words dilutes the Martini and makes it cloudy rather than clear. For connoisseurs of the Martini both effects are undesirable.
There is nothing undesirable about the three measures of hipster, one of grit and a half measure of waterside, as stirred not shaken, these ingredients, lifted the image I had of Newcastle from black and sooty to industrial cool.
The Northern Central Hotel located in Newcastle’s East End epitomizes the coolness of urban decay, the promise of future New York style loft apartments, while oozing faded class. This six-storied three pillared yellowy-red brick Art Deco with boarded up windows, empty bars once raucous as wharfies down pints during the six o’clock swill day’s lies in fallow. The redevelopment of this site is influx, as according to my research neither the Newcastle Council nor the property owners show any drive and or commitment to preserving this property.
It was testimony to our lack of planning for our Central New South Wales road trip that we arrived into Newcastle on a Monday night; the hospitality world’s Sunday night. Thankfully the French are more traditional when it comes to drinking and dining. Located in another grand Art Deco building, once home to a bank is Le Passe Temps, where the Gallic owners serve wines from Dordogne to the Bordeaux region; we though opted for the classic French aperitif Kir Royale. Afterwards we walked to the waterfront and dined at the Customs House Hotel. There is no other word to describe eating in a large hotel restaurant room, with thick piled carpet, generous sized tables not crammed next door to another and fresh flowers on each table. The experience may have been retro-1920’s but the meal was modern and delicious.
Newcastle’s East End precinct did not have a presence of menace however the steady stream of beat cops wandering into the Good Brother Espresso Shop the next morning certainly enhanced the need to maintain that big-city watchfulness. Later in the morning while shopping in the Cooks Hill precinct this big-city attitude was blown off by boutique and gallery owners who posted “cash only” signs. Given there was not a trustworthy EFTPOS machine within walking distance of this area we wondered if this was statement of coolness or simply a case of communications structures not keeping up with expansion.
I don’t know about you but I do know that like one of my travel writer hero’s A A Gill a sanitized city becomes downright dull. The constant traffic of tug boats up the Newcastle harbour then back again shepherding large freighter ships maintains that gritty feeling. The current city blend may though be changed by the gentrification of the decaying Art Deco buildings in future years. However, given the rust coloured steel silhouettes of the returned services men and women who served during the Great War of 1914-1918 which spans 450 metres of the 160-metre Newcastle Memorial Walk pay homage to an industrial history then perhaps Newcastle may continue to be a city “stirred not shaken”.