At Home with Bench Bar

Paul the owner of Bench Bar on King Street in Newtown and Bench Bar manager and licensee Chanel, talk Christmas cocktails and holy spirits!

How did you decide that Newtown needed another bar?
P: Bench was already here as a going concern for 8 years. Robyn and I were going to buy 5 Boroughs in Kings Cross as I had been a regular there for nearly 30 years but unfortunately the sale fell through and everyone was telling me to forget the Cross and go to Newtown… So here we are.

Working in hospitality is widely known as somewhat rough and tumble. What has been your most challenging and most rewarding experiences working in bars?
P:The rough business does not worry me at all, I’ve been used to that for many years just in a different industry. Coming from a transport background and having investments in property and agriculture, every day is both a challenge and a reward to “get it right”. While I might run five businesses all at once as well as being an artist, there is time for reflection on the successes and celebrate those moments. Chanel being such an amazing person and very switched on with business, it makes it both easier and enjoyable.

What do you think are the most intriguing cocktails or wines on your drinks menu?
C: We have so many different cocktails it’s so hard to choose! I would have to say the Fruit Tingle, Gummy Bear and our Japanese Slipper have the nicest colours, however it’s just so hard to resist the Toblerone… Coffee, Hazelnut & Baileys mixed with cream poured over martini glass dressed with honey and chocolate sauce – it’s absolutely delicious!

What is trending in cocktails this summer? Where do you find inspirations for your creations?
C: The classic mojito is always a big hit and coming into summer, we’re seeing a lot more ordered than the colder seasons. A cocktail is like a food recipe, and there are so many beautiful garnishes out there, all you have to do is look around and test them.

What were you drinking 5 years ago?
C: 5 years ago…Vodka Sunrises were my preferred drink when I went out with friends.

What are your reflections on the Newtown running a business in King Street?
P: Our liquor license does not allow us to open beyond midnight anyway so the lock-outs don’t affect us and we have found that a certain type of patron comes to us – that is they would never go to the Townie or Marlborough, so we are pretty lucky to have a select customer base. King Street is always a mixed bag with some days and nights really busy and others should be busy but are not, so we are learning about the area all the time.

An unsung hero of Australian bars?
P: Sav Aristides of 5 Boroughs Kings Cross who built the business up from a fairly good one to one that was pumping customers seven days and nights. A really great guy as well. Sadly 5 Boroughs is no more, like most of the Cross.


Classic Mojito


½ lime, juiced

2 tsp raw caster sugar

8 mint leaves

¾ cup crushed ice

45ml White Rum

Soda water, to fill glass

Sprig of mint to garnish

  1. Put lime juice and sugar in a tall glass and stir till sugar is dissolved.
  2. Add mint leaves and gently crush at bottom of cup (with muddler, long spoon or rolling pin).
  3. Add crushed ice, Rum and a dash of soda water, and stir for 20 secs.
  4. Garnish with a sprig of mint.