The end of 2023 is shaping up to be quite the time for new bar openings: Alice in Brisbane opened just this week; Old Love’s has just opened in the basement of the building that homes Old Mate’s Place; Evan Stroeve’s The Waratah is getting closer to opening, Kurtis Bosley has a new venue opening to the public in a couple weeks, and there’s more than a few new things in the works I’m keeping an eye on.
And come November 24th, the next bar from Natalie Ng is set to open its doors. Called Now & Then, for this outing Nat is partnering with fellow owner Locky Paech (East Village Sydney, Good Times Hospitality).
Nat initially wanted this next bar to be a wine bar — “I wanted to call it Chardy’s,” she says — but to develop the site and build in the cold rooms and wine storage areas she needed turned out to be more difficult than she first expected.
“The building is a kind of half heritage building,” Nat says.
So three months ago, the concept changed — for the better, if you’re a cocktail fan — to Now & Then, which gives nostalgia and the cutting edge equal billing.
What can you expect from Now & Then when it opens? I spoke to Nat to find out.
What’s the big idea behind the bar?
“The concept is Now & Then — it’s a two-sided menu that changes monthly.” Nat says.
“The ‘Then’ is a menu that is reminiscent of the past, and everything we love from the old times. Big Barossa shiraz, buttery chardonnays, old school West Coast Coolers — al that kind of stuff. And the cocktails that made cocktail bars what they are today: a really good version of a Mojito; a seasonal Caprioska, based on what’s best at the markets at the time; a really good, old school version of the Manhattan with the maraschino cherry; a really good version of the Tobelerone. All those things that people of our vintage fell in love with, and made people fall in love with cocktail bars in the first place.
“Then on the other side, it’s the ‘Now’ menu — everything that’s making cocktail bars what they are today: your clarified drinks, Milk Punches, your batched and bottled cocktails; anything that’s very technical will be on this side.” Your low-ABV, seltzers, and other in vogue trends will live on this side of the menu along with pet nat wines and sour beers.
You can expect to see five to six cocktails on each side of the menu, Nat says, with the list rotating every month.
“It gives our bartenders a lot to work with, and opens us up to a lot of collabs with winemakers and local spirits,” she says.
In addition to the rotating drinks lists, they’ll have a sizeable back bar for spirits, and a longer wine list that remains constant.
“We’ll be championing a lot of local winemakers and local producers,” Nat says.
Will there be food?
“We’ll have a small list of food items, five to six, that will be pasted onto wine bottles that will be on each table,” Nat says.
They’ve got plans to host chefs in for pop-ups down the track, once they’ve built out their kitchen more.
What will the design feel like?
Now & Then will hold 100 people, Nat says, with a private room distinct from the main room that hosts 20 people.
In terms of aesthetics, there’ll be a t ouch of today and a touch of times gone by.
“It’s going to be a good cross between a modern, dark venue — lots of dark blues and greens — but also reminiscent of when every bar used to have wallpaper and warm, autumn colours,” Nat says.
On entry, you’ll notice a long bar taking up pride of place, with a mixture of seating: high seats, booth seating, bar stools, and some natural light in the venue, too, with glimpses of the interior available from the street.
Who is behind Now & Then?
It’s a joint outing between Nat, who is the co-owner of award-winning Sydney bar Door Knock, and Locky Paech, who owns the East Village Sydney and Good Times Hospitality.
Expect to find Nat behind the bar regularly. She’ll be leading the drinks program, whilst developing a younger, up and coming cohort of talent to support her. To this end, bartender James Cooke (Edward & Ida’s) is making the move from Perth to Sydney to join the team. The venue’s general manager is Joey Moussa, who has spent time working the with Applejack Hospitality group.
When is Now & Then open? Where can you find them?
They’ll be open from 4pm Monday to Saturday, closing on Sundays. They’ve got a 2am licence, which they’ll be exercising on Friday and Saturday nights, closing at midnight the rest of the week.
You can find Now & Then at 222 Clarence Street, Sydney, and on Instagram at @nowandthen.sydney.