Newcastle Living Magazine
Situated just below Newcastle’s historic Grand Hotel is a bar breathing new life into the old school speakeasy.
Take the stairs from the hotel or the alleyway and you’ll be transported back to the prohibition era, only with a massive array of local and imported whiskeys, gins and wines. We recently sat down with Underground manager Lukas Thodas to find out all about the inspiration, atmosphere and drink options at the Underground.
How did the idea for the Underground come about?
My business partners and I had wanted to buy The Grand since before the pandemic. We’ve always loved the difference between the underground section and the accommodation upstairs, not to mention we wanted to keep it as a traditional pub. Most venues in the area have become really sleek and modern, so we wanted something that would contrast against that.
So apart from old vs news upstairs, what sets the downstairs apart?
Being underground and in the actual basement of the hotel is just a completely different feel. Having to walk down the steps through the hotel or down the back alley gives you a feeling you’re going somewhere unique. It makes you feel like you aren’t in Newcastle anymore.
What was the inspiration behind the Underground’s fit-out?
There were some restrictions with the layout as the Grand is a heritage hotel, but really it’s just a combination of ideas from both my business partner and I. We’ve been around a while and seen lots of different fit-outs across Australia and overseas, so we’ve taken little snippets of what we’ve seen over the years and meshed it together the best we could.
Atmosphere is crucial when putting a bar together. What was the overall goal for the vibe of the bar? How did you want to capitalise on its natural moodiness?
It’s dark and moody, but the atmosphere is also inviting, and consequently attracts a more sophisticated demographic. You can come in and have a quiet drink, or catch up with a friend and stay late without having to feel the rush of the night club dance feel. We don’t need a huge crowd, 20 people down there is enough to get a good vibe.
The local speakeasy is alive and well at The Underground
What would you say is the most popular drink?
We do have signature cocktails that everyone loves, but at the moment the two most popular ones would be the Charlie Wu and the Peggy Lee. The Charlie Wu is Four Pillars Gin, apricot brandy, lime juice, blackberry, kaffir lime, and vermouth. While the Peggy Lee contains Archie Rose botanical vodka, live ruby liqueur, orange blossom water, cranberry juice, and prosecco.
On the flipside of that, what’s the most underrated drink on the menu?
In my opinion it would be the Midas Touch because it’s a whisky based cocktail but personally, I really love a classic negroni. But we also have four non-alcoholic cocktails on the menu, as well as about five non-alcoholic spirits behind the bar we can make drinks with.
Tell us about the regular jazz nights at The Underground.
Tuesday and Thursday nights are Jazz Night, and it’s been an institution for 15 years. It is a ticketed event but people come in and have a lot of fun – and the jazz really adds the whole speakeasy vibe we have down there. We’re about to start doing something on Thursday nights with the same crew. It’ll be a little different and a bit more casual but it’s going to be just as fun.
Contact The Underground
02 4049 3686
32 Church St, Newcastle NSW 2300
Tues | 7:30pm – 11pm
Wed – Thur | 5pm – 12am
Fri – Sat | 5pm-2am
Sun – Mon | Closed
The Underground is open Tuesday through to Saturday, 5pm ‘til late. If you’re after tickets to Jazz Night, visit nima.org.au and book today!