Saved from permanent closure, beloved Brunswick pub is reborn – and reinvented – like Penny’s

One of the most unfortunate trends, beloved Sydney Road pub The Penny Black closed in early 2020. 2008. And it’s just reopened.

For rusty local resident Scott Assender – director of the 100 Burgers group, which owns both Welcome to Thornbury and Welcome to Brunswick – it’s a bit of a homecoming. “I wanted to buy it back,” he says. “I love it, it’s one of my first loves. We wanted to restore it to its former glory.

Old glory is one thing, but don’t expect a carbon copy of what it once was. To begin with, it’s called Penny’s now. And it’s familiar, of course, but there have been enough changes to give it its own new identity. Japanese influences mingle with its grungy rock’n’roll pub history, permeating the overall vibe, layout and menu.

“It’s Japanese influenced, it’s definitely not Japanese,” Assender says. “At first we were influenced by Japanese rock and roll bands from the 70s. There was a band called Bow Wow and another band called Happy End. They had that post-Woodstock rock thing. Some images are based on this idea. We just hope we can capture the essence of it.

But the Japanese inspiration is more tangible, naturally, in the food. Former Mulberry Group chef Sandy Melgalvis decided on the menu needed to complement the booze and tunes, rather than the other way around. “We took the ramen route and [we thought], ‘If they fill up with cash, they’re not going to drink cash and listen to rock’ n ‘roll, they’re going to go home and sleep, “” she said. Large format.

Instead, the focus has shifted to beer-friendly foods that are easy to share. Flame-licked yakitori come two at a time, with accompaniments such as mushrooms and onions, glazed in molasses made from slow-cooked vegetable scraps, soybeans, and brown sugar.

Something bigger is the pork rib eye katsu, destined to be the star attraction on the menu. There’s no rudimentary parma here, and this version could be even better. “We get a really good local pork rib eye and smash it right away, so it’s a nice big, nice thing to watch,” says Melgalvis. It’s breaded panko and crisscrossed with kewpie and katsu sauce.

Melgalvis also runs a relatively low-pollution kitchen. Cauliflower katsu sando covered in barbecue sauce, for example, uses a coleslaw steak with all the usual toppings: pickles, cabbage, and kewpie. The flagships appear as plant-based karaage on the snack menu, alongside items such as real karaage without vegetables, savory togarashi fries, and swordfish tataki Рperfect for dipping into the grand caf̩ en open air on several levels at the back.

Despite all the changes, live music will be back when restrictions ease. The stage sits under the windows of the spacious front bar, with a ceiling high enough to emit a grand ballroom feel. In the space with a capacity of 948 people, expect to see fresh-faced artists and smaller tours.

With Penny’s arrival in the band’s neighboring spots – Welcome to Brunswick, Brunswick Mess Hall and Little Mess – a bit of enclosure creeps in. And while the team may not yet have quite achieved their dream of connecting them all by a bridge, the lane between Penny’s and Welcome to Brunswick will soon be lit by directional track-style lighting, you won’t have to. so not even to do it. go out in the street.

Assender’s plan is to spoil the locals with choice. “Any itch you want to scratch in Brunswick, you can do it,” he says. “The idea is that it’s a neighborhood where people move from one part of the neighborhood to another as the night progresses, depending on what they want.”


420 Sydney Road, Brunswick


Wed to Fri 5 p.m.-late

Sat and Sun from 12 p.m. to late

About Dawn Valle

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