UPDATE: Apparently the New Windsor has a new name as well. The preferred nomenclature is The Windsor on Park, and contrary to the below, they even have a proper website.
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Many years ago, when the Prick was just a prick and home was Sydney’s east, he was part of a little collective of journos, authors, bloggers, and other reprobates who would hang around the Mill Hill Hotel under the official-sounding moniker, The Bondi Junction Institute for Advanced Studies.
The group even had a little wood-and-brass plaque made up which sat on the bar when we were in session, or rather did until some bastard stole it. Of our number was a gent called Pat Sheil, a man who went on to great things and is now making a third quixotic tilt for the seat of Wentworth in this Saturday’s election, but who at the time quite enjoyed regaling us with stories of his career at ACP’s Picture magazine.
One such yarn went as follows, and was (re)-reported in The Australian recently:
Sheil’s other claim to fame was a strange and wonderful meeting with his employer, Kerry Packer in a lift at ACP’s Park Street headquarters.
Suitably refreshed late on a Friday afternoon, Sheil was heading off to a photo shoot and took the lift down from The Picture’s offices. He was bearing a fake octopus the art department had knocked up, a stuffed goat and had a stripper in tow who was wearing a pair of cut off shorts that looked like two postage stamps roughly attached by twine. The lift stopped at the second floor and Kerry Packer stepped in.
Unsure of how to proceed, Sheil did the only thing he could do and introduced himself to his boss.
“Mr Packer. Pat Sheil. Picture magazine.”
Packer looked Sheil and the stripper up and down.
“Carry on,” the magnate replied before alighting at the first floor.
This stroll down memory lane comes by way of a visit to another pub (this time for a lunch, not an ill-advised weeknight session of the Institute), specifically, the New Windsor Hotel at the corner of Park and Castlereagh streets.
Now the New Windsor has never been much on the Prick’s radar but it is a legendary old ACP watering hole and as such, in that funny way the mind works, it brought back memories as hard and fast as a truckload of goodies from the Marcel Proust Madeleine Pty Ltd.
Those who work in the area know that the New Windsor has been under renovation for ages but lately the hoardings have come down and the joint is back in business with a refurbished bistro upstairs and ex-Onde, ex-Berowra Waters Inn chef Laif Etournaud on the pans. It is still a CBD pub downstairs with an eternally-ironic “VIP Lounge” and a carpet straight out of the CityRail pattern book but upstairs there are nods to something bigger, with brass borders on the table and an open kitchen that is clearly equipped to deal with more than a couple of guys slinging burgers.
But what about the food? Well, it’s good. Very good, especially for the space and market. And good value, too, as it hits a sweet spot between the Westfield food court, cafes, and more proletarian pubs on the one hand and expense account CBD restaurants like Glass or Gowings on the other.
(Incidentally it is only fair to note that Thang Ngo, who runs the innovative Noodlies food and culture blog, came along for this reverie – as well as some in-depth working through of questions relating dining, writing, and whether the perfect ramen is possible in this vale of tears, answers to which are all, I’m afraid, covered by Chatham House rules. Sorry.)
Only a couple of menu prices start with a “2”, and even those just barely. The New Windsor does not have much in the way of a website and so it is hard to tell if there’s more on offer at dinner time. But at lunch at least the focus appears to be on doing a few items – fish, steak, half a roast chook – and doing them well. Happily for a CBD pub diner an elegant handful of starters is also on offer, underlining the room’s status as a cut above the beer-and-schnitty lunchtime set.
Cod brandade comes with thin crisps of bread; yummy, but (don’t judge) as a matter of personal preference the Prick likes his brandade in more of a fritter arrangement, and possibly encased in a zucchini flower. Never mind.
Steak, on the other hand, works out to be the best way one could spend $19 on a lunch hour. A proper but not overwhelming slab of sirloin comes well cooked and with a great crust on it. More importantly, when ordered rare it comes properly rare, a rich reddish-purple all the way through and chopped into thick slices which reveal the grain and guide where one should cut next. Barramundi is also good, very competent, and with a hint of citrus, is pleasant, but when the Prick returns (and this could become a regular midday haunt) the steak will be the go-to order. The roast chicken may get a look-in when – if – winter returns.
Oddly for its location the place was practically deserted on a Wednesday afternoon, but it is early days. Give it a few weeks for word to filter through the ACP and other local grapevines and it will be heaving with fake octopi, strippers, and the ghost of Kerry Packer.
The Prick’s kinda place.