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Rafi Alam is both mad and disappointed

First years and the generally ignorant may have missed the heartbreaking, tragic moment The Lansdowne caught on fire earlier this year. Located at the endpoint of Victoria Park, just as Broadway veers off into City Road, The Lansdowne was a favourite of students. It was so popular that a previous Honi couldn’t decide if it was an on-campus or off-campus bar. The Lansdowne was proud of its affinity with students.

It’s all different now, though, post-reopening and renovation. The Lansdowne is no longer the bar where you’d eat, drink, and smoke before or after lectures. You can forget the new sickly, confused decor upstairs; you can forget that a famous live music venue now prefers DJs over (terrible, but in a cosy way) local bands; you can even forget that we’re pretty sure it’s owned by James Packer now.

But you can never forget that they cut the $7 meal.

One of the reasons why The Lansdowne was so popular with students was for its $7 meals. Although it began as $5 not too long ago, the $7 steak, schnitzel, or bangers and mash was still so cheap you’d trek past the harrowing depths of that pond in Victoria Park just to get some.

Now, a steak will cost you $16, as can burgers. Aside from cheese fritters, pretzels, popcorn, and ‘taxi driver corn cabs’, all starters are above $10. Schnitzels are a modest $10 too, but when you reminisce on that spare $3 you could’ve pocketed, you too will begin to cry.

Perhaps I’ve been too cruel though. In a conversation with The Lansdowne (read: me yelling at them on Facebook), they were sure to mention the new daily specials that are on from Monday to Thursday. Mexican on Monday, burgers on Tuesday, pizza on Wednesday, and steaks on Thursday – all for $10. And one other commenter reminded me that it costs money to renovate and, er, recover from a fire.

But I believe I was right when I began the ‘conversation’ with “how about instead of selling expensive bourgie food to pretend you’re a Merivale bar, you start selling cheap affordable food for your biggest (former) patrons: students”. Sure, they might have specials, but every day used to be special at the Lansdowne.

The Lansdowne is trying to be what it’s not. Trying to be cool in your 40s is not cool, but “someone-in-their-40s-trying-to-be-cool”; likewise, the Lansdowne trying to be chic, upmarket and trendy is “the-fucking-LANSDOWNE-trying-to-be-chic-and-upmarket-and-trendy.” It doesn’t work.

Sure, the food might be great. But that’s the point – I can’t afford it. Why bother when The Royal – closer to uni, I’ll add – is cheaper? The Lansdowne should stick to what it knows best: being a grungy cheap loud student local bar. Instead, The Lansdowne wants to recreate itself in rebirth as a nice fancy place. It’s why they called their new overpriced kitchen the Phoenix Diner.

I knew a Phoenix once. Two, actually. Phoenix Literary Journal and River Phoenix. Both disappeared and never came back. The Diner should follow suit.

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