Bench wine bar – Newtown

I could describe this small bar on King Street’s south end as “industrial chic” – the website certainly does. Light bulbs encased in metal cages dangle from the ceiling while the stools, bar counter and namesake bench in the middle of the room are all made from galvanised metal. And yet, despite the décor, to me Bench somehow feels more like a 1970s wine and cocktail haunt than an industrial Newtown small bar.

It might be because of the atmosphere – while on paper this might sound like another uni student hangout, it actually has a mature feel about it, from the staff to the clientele (mostly people in their late 20s and 30s when I’m there). It also might be because of the quiet lounge music, the retro back-lit wall that changes colour, not to mention the cocktail list that’s straight from the 70s.

While the wine list here is respectable, with a good range of mostly local wines that you don’t see in every bar, the cocktail menu has drinks such as the White Lady, Sea Breeze, Golden Dream, and Brandy Alexander.

At this point I’m not sure what to say. I could get snotty and say I refuse to drink cocktails in any bar that serves a Brandy Alexander, but even I know that’s pretentious – especially since finer cocktail enthusiasts such as Robert Hess even extol this creamy cocktail’s virtues. Instead I will simply say that I like my cocktails to be like my cat – simple, hard and vicious – and so I’m scared off the cocktails and opt for the Belgravia merlot 2008 ($8.50) while my gay wingman grabs a Vale Ale ($8). And, after scorning their cocktail list, it’s only fair to add that I do respect that they stock such a good beer.

The service here is friendly and they serve food such as chorizos with olives as well as pizza that I suspect comes from Pizza Picasso next door. Another attraction is the front counter, where you can sit and watch the King Street traffic pass by.

In short, this is a nice, quiet, mature place for a quiet glass of wine. Since neither myself nor my gay wingman are nice, quiet or mature, however, we leave after our drinks to chase cats and men respectively.

Bench wine bar, 511 King Street, Newtown, See the Bench website Open Wednesday to Saturday until midnight and Sunday until 10pm.

Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Bench?

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