Bars and Nightclubs
Inner West, Sydney

The Midnight Special

44 Enmore Rd, Newtown NSW
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Get a feel for some Americana and slip into this darkly lit retro bar. Unwind after work with smooth, chilled beats and get a taste for delicious cocktails and wine, or savour their range of locally brewed beer. There are music theme nights, live artists, and everything is played on vinyl. Join the funky and exceptionally cool folk of Newtown and take a trip back to the ‘50s, without the oppressive way of thinking. Open 5pm-midnight.

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The Midnight Special Review

Review by Nicole MacDougall

Walking down the streets of Newtown, you'd be forgiven for not noticing The Midnight Special's clandestine entrance. Veiled behind black curtains lies a new addition to Newtown's small bar scene. Transporting all who visit to a place where you can't help but feel you should be sitting beside the famous of the New Orleans jazz scene, downing whisky.

Welcome to The Midnight Special: a rustic saloon that pays special homage to Americana, with it's kitschy retro ornaments and an unashamed obsession with '50s, '60s, and '70s tracks played on old-fashioned vinyl. If you long to escape the over-saturation of today's pop icons, it is a refreshingly welcome break. Instead, your ears savour the sounds of old-school rock and roll, Motown, and French jazz, as well as live artists filling the room with authentic talent.

The Midnight Special definitely has the mood-lighting down pat, but in a edgy cool way, rather than awkwardly romantic. Posters of rock legends the likes of Elvis, Johnny Cash, and Jimi Hendrix dot black-painted walls, while dark wood furnishings and wood panelling conjures images of an underground jazz bar. Red Chinese lanterns (that are similar to the ones in my lounge room) bring a warm, almost dozy haze to the bar. It’s cosy, it’s dark, and it’s hip as anything.

Impossibly busy on Friday and Saturday nights, The Midnight Special has become a favourite of mine for a cheeky mid-week wine (or cocktail, depending on the day I've had). The cocktail list is impressive, with the usual favourites such as mojitos and margaritas, but thrown in are more unique mixtures, such as the Kachumber Cocktail, which blends the freshness of gin, cucumber and coriander, with the biting flavours of chopped chilli peppers. Cocktails not your thing? Never fear, The Midnight Special is all about the locally brewed beer, as well as boasting a large choice of quality Australian and New Zealand wines.

Either take a seat at the bar and enjoy the friendly company of the staff, or cosy up with friends at the diner-styled tables. The space is small, so you may need to nudge people out of the way to get to the seats, but that's okay, with the bar's chilled-out vibe, we're all friends here. If you have a larger crowd, it can be a bit squashy in the main area, but not to worry, if you get in early enough you can nab one of the booths at the back and settle in for a night of rock and roll culture, with a side of soul.

Peckish? The Midnight Special hasn't gone the way of the usual tapas style share plates most small bars offer. Instead, it's your all-American hot dogs with a twist. Nothing is typical here. The hot dogs come with a range of toppings from sauerkraut, to smothered in chilli sauce and peppers, and for those that are animal-friendly, the folks at The Midnight Special offer vegan and vegetarian versions aptly titled, “Not Dogs”.

Take a trip down memory lane and drop by the Inner West's new favourite dive bar. Shake off any pretentiousness you may have of Newtown's nightlife and open yourself up to a night of quality tunes, even better booze, and escape modern reality for a little while.

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A Second Review of The Midnight Special

Review by James Thomas

We arrive at The Midnight Special at around eight on a Friday evening and, to my surprise, find an empty table straight away. It soon becomes clear that we’ve hit an early evening sweet spot, because before long the place is flooded with merrymakers and townpainters eager to get the long weekend off to a rocking start. And rocking is the right word for this little bar on Enmore Road.

As we sit down to our first Sierra Nevadas, we quickly find our conversations washed out by a string of old rockabilly and soul songs. And the problem isn’t just that the music is too loud in here – it’s that the tunes are so great! More than once our chats trail off after someone interjects with an impassioned “What *is* this?”, and we all quieten down to listen. The rock ‘n roll theme is maintained in the groovy furnishings, with chequered floors and diner-style booths. But best of all is the colourfully decorated bar, with its charming pastiche of kooky bits and pieces crammed behind bottles of Frangelico and St. Germain.

After our lavishly priced beers we move on to the cocktail list, and while the Americana feel of this place might set the mood for a night of beer swilling, don’t be fooled! The bartenders at The Midnight Special know how to mix up some pretty spectacular creations... and they do it with style.My friend and I order an Espresso Martini and an “Original Hurricane”, and then watch on in wonderment as our bartender scoots back and forth, racking up ingredients like a woman possessed. She puts the cocktails together with speed and finesse, and then paces her turf with great intensity as she gives our drinks a vigorous shake. She’s incredibly entertaining, and the drinks taste amazing. When we give her our thanks, our manic mixologist suddenly becomes (quite adorably) bashful.

The night wears on, and the Midnight crowd continues to swell. The young clientele – generally landing within the twenties and thirties age bracket – seem to eat up the aesthetic, and the vibe is palpable. But as the growls of our stomachs begin to compete in volume with the slow jams emanating from behind the bar, my friends and I realise we’re going to need a little more than this merry atmosphere to satisfy our appetites. A look at the menu uncovers a predictably limited range of dishes. All that’s on offer at the Midnight are a handful of variations on the typical American-style hot dog, with one vegetarian option (the cutely named “not dog”). The dogs make for a tasty snack between drinks but just aren’t enough to hit the spot tonight. And they could be spicier, too. So we finally, grudgingly, leave our table at The Midnight Special in search of a proper dinner on King Street, vowing to return another night. And we mean it, too.

Our night at The Midnight Special was a little on the expensive side, but a lot of fun. If you happen to find yourself up on Enmore Road and down for a night of boozing to the sounds of old rock and soul records, then this is the bar for you. The staff are friendly, the drinks are delicious and the music is spot on. Just don’t come around expecting any nice, quiet corners – this is a loud joint, and you’d better get with it!

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