The Lord of the King St: Rating Newtown’s Pubs

A definitive guide to drinking around campus for ambitious first years.

Art by Ellie Stephenson

The University of Sydney is surrounded by an abundance of pubs, ranging from truly terrible to near-perfect. Some might say that it is a rite of passage for first year students to tour these pubs for themselves. For the most audacious drinkers and the most obstinate among you, this may be your journey. Others, though, may be in search of a definitive list of which pubs are worthy of your time. 

 With this in mind, I, accompanied by a delegation of Honi Soit editors and a small assortment of other Good Samaritan friends, have done the pub crawl of King Street and its surrounds for you. We visited 6 of the most iconic pubs on the night, namely The Rose, The Royal, The Newtown Hotel, Coopers, Websters and The Bank. We have also included some commendations from previous quests and some strong warnings about the dangers of others. 

 Each pub was rated by our brave fellowship based on ten categories – chip quality, crowd, the cost of a schooner, the music, its special deals, the quality of its special deals, the tolerance of its bouncers, the cleanliness of the toilets, its versatility as a venue and its overall vibe. We identified the overall winners alongside some definite losers, and discerned what each specific pub had to offer the weary traveler. The following paragraphs offer a series of vignettes of what predictably deteriorated into an eventful and tragic night.

The Rose Hotel

The first stop was destined to be The Rose and people arrived gradually in a wide array of outfits. 2021 SRC President Swapnik, who has insisted he be referred to as President Swapnik Sanagavarapu for the duration of the article, was overheard saying, “Once a president always a president, am I right fellas?” 

Worse still, he, alongside Robin Fabenson, deemed it appropriate to arrive in full suit and tie straight from their work as corporate sell-outs in nearby law firms. Remember: this is a big no when going out in Newtown – cargo pants or baggy jeans, short-sleeve button ups or tight singlets as well as earrings and a mullet, and perhaps a tasteful carabiner affixed to your belt loop, are compulsory. Others were more appropriately attired in Dickie’s pants, beanies and Air Force 1’s. 

The Rose proved to be the best pub of the night, making it bittersweet to peel ourselves away and face the objectively worse pubs to come. Thankfully, there is always next weekend, or perhaps their regular Tuesday trivia! The Rose scored a whopping 77/100, coming in with the highest rating for the crowd (8.25), smoking area (9.75), toilets (8) and overall vibe (9). In my opinion, the Rose is a great, social and expansive venue with a large smoking area, reasonably priced and well-ranged beers and relaxed security, albeit with not great music on the night and quite expensive food. The chips and especially their sauce are very enjoyable too, and complement a pint of the Rose Lager or Tiger beer well (bonus points for being the only pub on the night to have this excellently named beer).

Art: Ellie Stephenson

The Royal

When the Labor Party offices finally let their employees leave for the day (I hope they pay overtime!) we gained another member and we were off to The Royal. Two minutes down the road and opposite the Abercrombie Business School, The Royal is a run-of-the-mill, kind of (editor’s note: extremely) smelly pub, which is nonetheless popular with students. 

It is rather one-note and may not seem versatile, but has hosted events ranging from conferences on Anarcho-communism to college boy meetups. Your guess as to which event ended with a formal apology and a ban for a literal pissing-contest into a jug. The Royal took home two awards – one for cheapest drinks on night and the other for best security, with no bouncer and no ID check for babyfaced, 21-year-old me. 

If a cheap, hassle-free drink is what you’re after and your nose happens to be a little blocked one particular evening, then The Royal is the place to be. 

Art: Ellie Stephenson

The Newtown Hotel

Next stop was The Newtown Hotel on King Street — a nicer, albeit more expensive option with high versatility and a good range of international beer. Although cost brought it down to fourth in the rankings, the Newtown Hotel is reasonably popular and features a nice upstairs balcony with sunset views, pool tables, a great beer garden and two spacious indoor areas. Perfect for an afternoon drink just up the incline from uni, keep an eye out for an open window on the south-side of the facade, where students have (reportedly) been able to skip the line and sneak in — sadly visitors to the pub often face substantial queues.

Art: Ellie Stephenson

Websters

Websters was our next conquest and is found almost directly across the road from Newtown Station. Unbeknownst to us until we spoke to the manager on the night, Websters is allegedly home to over 1400 different alcohols and specialises in whiskey. The bar staff know what they’re talking about, often giving advice on how to drink specific drinks, a phenomena described by a friend as “as the chef intended it.” 

Websters also featured the best music on the night and took home the prize for versatility, with a classic downstairs pub area, a Peaky Blinders style bar on the second level, and an open-air rooftop on the third. The manager also appears upon first meeting to be something of a legend. Eager to make a glowing recommendation of the pub’s liquor selection, chat, and share his time with us, Sebastian recommends the steak: “bloody terrific” he enthused.

Not to be outshone, Current SRC President Lauren Lancaster and sexy boytoy turned humble musician and deep thinker Lachy Dunk joined us here and were originally omitted from the article for not having a large impact on the night. Current SRC President and infamous for her marriage of the otherwise, usually oxymoronic ‘Instagram Girlboss’ and ‘radical (?) activist,’ Lauren would like it known she was responsible for the exponential increase in group photography catalysed by her appearance on the scene. Before leaving us for a cooler event, she made sure to engage in some petty thievery of [REDACTED].

Lauren’s photographic contribution to the expedition.

The Bank Hotel

Our night of research was destined to come to a somewhat premature end in the line for the Bank Hotel, across the road from Websters. 

Robin, who noted previously in the night that his dream job was in investigative journalism, seemed to be conducting an interview with the bouncer while a crowd of Honi Soit reporters and editors gathered around them. The bouncer had alleged that fellow editor Zara (“Omg it’s Zara from twitter” someone exclaimed) was too tipsy to get in, and Robin was determined to rigorously fact check this assertion as Zara disputed she was simply tired. The bouncer, an otherwise unprovocative and gentle-minded fellow, was unresponsive to Robin’s dogged attempts to champion the truth in asserting the group was “not drunk”. The innocent interview quickly turned into an interrogation however, as Robin would not let go of such an injustice.

My advice to this particular editor is that if you’re self-admittedly too skinny to play rugby in high school, you should probably avoid calling the jacked-up bouncer a “[REDACTED]”. We would warn against making this mistake in future as it has come to our attention that the bouncers of King Street are part of a WhatsApp group chat, where they advise fellow bouncers of the night’s shenanigans. Confirmed by the bouncers themselves, many a hooligan has been refused entry to a pub for the crime of being kicked out of another pub further up the road. Shockingly, a friend who was removed from the Newtown Hotel’s premises and then again a second time after scaling the back fence and swinging in from the roof the beer garden, was later refused entry to the Marly on this basis.

“Robin Fabenson” and his new friend <3

Touchingly however, Robin was destined to experience his own “enemies to lovers arc,” like something out of Zara’s Twitter feed. After getting in a shoving match with the bouncer and a verbal back-and-forth with the bouncer’s brother that would’ve put Medvedev and Nadal to shame, Robin somehow ended up with the brother’s number, and can be seen below engaging with his new bestie as others tried to hurry him along to Camperdown Park.

Although relegated to the end of our journey, Camperdown Park is by all means the place to be as a first year. Many a lovely summer afternoon, birthday party, or SRC election results night has been spent in the affectionately-named “Campo”. With cute dogs running amok, paddocks full of 18-22 year olds, and a ‘drinking allowed till 9pm’ policy, Campo is perhaps the most popular of the visited venues. 

Appendix

Armed now with this information, it is up to you to choose whether to take the advice of this guide or traverse the dozens of pubs within walking distance from Uni. Highly commended also are a number of other great pubs; The Vic on the Park (The Vic), The Golden Barley, The Forest Lodge Hotel (Flodge), and the Lansdowne. The Vic has arguably the best beer garden in the Inner West as well as an in-house basketball court available until midnight. Queues are ridiculous around 9-11:30pm but going before or after that ensures a good time. The Golden Barley has an RSL vibe inside, but out the back is a cosy garden area with approachable Grandmasters just a throw down of the glove away from a great game of pick-up chess. The Flodge has been described as “the Triple J of Inner West pubs” with an infamous 6.9% strength beer, “where you can sit in the family-oriented front section or out the back to see everyone else you know.” 

   A final word of warning to you almost-ready adventurers would be against The Marlborough “Marly” Hotel and Kuleto’s Cocktail bar, both for safety reasons and because their glory days are over. The Marly tends to be a late-night stop for the overbearing, liberal-lite crowd, evidenced by the oversaturation of linen shirts and loafers — and to be honest, Kuleto’s lacks atmosphere and is frankly a bit cringe. 

Safe travels my fellow pub enjoyers, and to take a line from a previous iteration of this article: don’t abuse your alcohol, drink it.

The Numbers

Highest standard deviation in chip quality rating: the Royal

Best and worst seccies:

Relationship between smoking area quality and crowd quality ranking:

Ordinary Least Squares regression of quality of crowd on quality of smoking area (both rated out of 10), found the relationship to be positive, albeit not statistically significant. As such, we cannot conclude that the quality of a pub’s smoking area affects the quality of its clientele. 

Overall average rankings (out of 10):