Sydney is no longer the only NSW city to sport a striking – albeit smaller – set of white sails on its harbour. But while the Sydney sails belong to one of that city’s most famous buildings, the Opera House, the stunning addition to Newcastle’s harbour side architecture forms part of the latest transformation wrought on one of our city’s most iconic restaurants... Scratchleys.
Construction work has kept passers-by guessing during the past seven months as owners Neil and Donna Slater created “Scratchleys Mark III”, completing a cosmetic makeover on their renowned seafood restaurant while also creating a whole new venue at the western end of the site, now known as Battlesticks Bar.
A casual but sophisticated venue offering classy cocktails, tasty tapas share plates and live music every day of the week, its construction represents the wider coming of age of Newcastle according to the restaurateur behind it.
“It’s all part of us becoming a city,” Neil said.
“You only have to look at the courthouse building, that’s a really cool looking building; the University’s NewSpace is a really evocative looking building, some people are going to dislike it, but it’s evocative – you can either build a box, or you can make it evocative, and people can talk about it.
“I think this is where we’re all going now and we’re part of it. “It’s all part of the bigger picture. We’re just trying to do all of those sorts of things to say Newcastle has grown up.”
According to Neil, this includes ensuring Newcastle offers the cosmopolitan lifestyle you’d expect to find in a city, complete with a wide variety of dining, drinking and weeknight entertainment options.
“You can’t have a city without it having all of those things. It is part of the gentrification of Newcastle and aside from increasing residential density in Newcastle we’ve got some significant hotels now and a major visitor market.
“We’ve all travelled overseas and when you travel, you don’t meet your friends and go to the local hamburger joint, they take you somewhere nice and say have a look at my city and we should be doing the same.
“On Friday, Saturday and Sunday afternoon, there’s plenty of venues having live music, but I believe that part of Newcastle being a city is having those opportunities earlier in the week for people to entertain friends.”
Live with music is certainly one of the features of Battlesticks, which was built with a state-of-the-art sound system that allows musicians to truly showcase their talents across 10 weekly live music sessions – every weeknight from 7pm and both afternoon and evening sessions on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
But it is far from the only stand-out feature at Battlesticks, which operates as a stand-alone but complementary venue alongside Scratchleys.
The bar offers eight beers on tap, a choice of 280 wines and a tempting cocktail menu. The bar is also well stocked with spirits, with up to 100 different varieties sure to cater for every taste and also introduce people to flavours they have never experienced before.
To ensure a visit to the bar remains a “civilised drinking” experience, Battlesticks also offers a mouth-watering tapas menu, featuring cold, hot and larger-sized share plates as well as dessert.
“The idea is that you come in here, you have a drink, and while you’re having a drink you might think ‘why don’t we have a bite to eat together?’ and you graze on a share plate or two,” Neil said.
“It’s a kind of civility if you like of dining and drinking and some nice live music in the corner, with the background of the beautiful harbour doing its thing.
“Or it could be somewhere you come for a drink before you go to Scratchleys, or somewhere you come for a drink after you’ve had a meal and you want to just kick back.”
But even before you get tempted by the food and drinks on offer at both Battlesticks and Scratchleys, the architecture and styling alone are enough to entice you through the front doors of the two venues.
Both have been finished using a modern palette of predominantly white and grey tones, from the gleaming pearlescent surface of the Battlesticks exterior through to the smooth white finish of the bar.
New walls, floors and furniture at Scratchleys have injected new life into what was already one of Newcastle’s most-loved waterfront restaurants, while a multi-layered design featuring three tiers of seating at Battlesticks ensures everyone has the best view in the house of the site’s biggest asset – the harbour.
But the colours and finishes weren’t just chosen to look good – they also have an environmental part to play, reflecting and enhancing the natural light that streams through the trademark large glass windows overlooking the water.
Sustainability has always played a role in the design of the venues Neil has built at the former ferry terminal site, which despite undergoing two expansions over the years still maintains a similar energy usage to when it first opened as an 80-seat BYO restaurant in 1989.
Even the striking white sails, or wings as Neil calls them, have a green theme, providing protection from the heat of the western sun.
“The whole Scratchleys environmental philosophy isn’t that we grow our own herbs and veggies in the backyard because we haven’t got a backyard, it’s about trying to lower the impact of the business on the environment,” he said.
“We try to use as many features and assets of the place to lower the environmental impact of what we do. The way it is set up you don’t need any lights on in the daytime, there’s a lot of natural light, and we actually use the white colours and the lighter colours so that we don’t have to use anything other than natural light.
“We’ve got cross-flow ventilation and we’ve got these wings to protect us from the western sun - it’s the world’s most expensive blind but it’s keeping the western sun out of the building so we can keep the heat on the outside and use the sea breeze and the environment that we’re in on the inside.
“Because we’ve redone almost the entirety of the kitchen, we’ve redone all of the appliances, when they’re done properly they’re much more energy efficient. All our refrigeration motors are up on the roof, all the venting is up there, all the lights are LED and state-of-the-art.
“Our energy level in the daytime here is running a computer and turning on a stove, apart from that, our energy during the day is almost zero.
“To me it just makes business sense not to use unnecessary energy on air conditioning, not to use unnecessary energy on refrigeration or if you can recycle you do recycle and just try to keep your waste stream down to a minimum, your energy usage down to a minimum, your guest comfort to a maximum.
“We’ve tried to just make sure the luxury is still there, but the environment is still looked after.”
Battlesticks Bar opened in November and operates from 12pm to midnight Monday to Saturday and from 12pm to 10pm on Sunday, with live music sessions every day. Scratchleys is open for bookings for lunch and dinner seven days a week.