Drinking by Aussie rules

After the Irish pub, the Oz pub. Jack O'Sullivan reports on a cultural shift in our drinking

If you drop in for a pint at the recently opened Bar Oz, you'll encounter boxing kangaroos on the walls, surf boards and diving suits over the bar.

A lifeboat hangs from one ceiling and there's wall-to-wall sport (this pub has not one but two satellite dishes). The bar food - sorry, "tucker" - is served up in billy-cans and signs warn of wombats and emus for the next 60km. The ladies has been rechristened "Sheilas" and photographs of cricketing heroes such as Greg Chappell and Denis Lillee stare down on the rough wooden floors and huge barrels that serve as tables. A series of clocks will tell you the time in Perth, Adelaide and Sydney. Oh, yes, and you can also buy Antipodean beer, a full two degrees colder than in most British pubs (and about twice the price charged down under). And - "skull'em if you dare" - there's plenty of New World wines for tipplers.

The Oz theme is the latest commercial ploy to get us drinking. It is taking over from the Irish pub, and could soon - as the punter and producer seek more gimmicks - be replaced by Eastern European pubs, radio pubs or eco pubs. Well, how can you be expected to drink in a pub without a theme?

Bar Oz in west London is the proud creation of Howard Elliot, marketing manager for Scottish and Newcastle breweries. He has never visited Australia, but he reckons his pub is pretty authentic.

"You won't find Alice Springs here," he explains seriously, to mark out the sophistication of his product as more than just Wagga Wagga revisited. "This is about urban life, places like Sydney and Melbourne. This is the country that will host the Olympics in 2000. Our pubs are not about hats with corks on, or Crocodile Dundee."

The pub has had a major facelift since its days as the Moscow Arms, when it was a temple to punk rock. Bar Oz is the latest attempt to find a new pub theme, as last year's craze for Irish bars begins to pall. But the aim is to draw on the same elements which has made Oirishry hip - music, a strong beer-drinking tradition and a culture that is young and fashionable. Throw in the Aussie passion for sport, and Mr Elliot thinks his company has a formula for success. "Sure, we're interested in Australia, but what we are really selling is fun, food and sport."

A deep knowledge of Australian culture wasn't needed, it seems. The Aussie aphorisms on the walls come from a book of Australian colloquialisms (example: man sitting on outdoor privy, alongside caption - "Sport so good, you'll have to leave the dunny door open". And Aboriginal art gets only a minor look-in: there is a bit of painting on the way, as it happens, to the men's dunny door.

However, the customers, mainly a mixture of Aussies, Kiwis, South Africans and Canadians, seem to like it. "It's the first place I've found that has Cold Chisel on the juke box," says Catherine Austin, 20, from Sydney, who has just downed her rucksack, picked up a cold Crown lager and tuned in to her favourite rock band.

The southern hemisphere gang seem to flock together for big sporting occasions. But Bar Oz is too decorated and self-conscious to be an authentic Australian watering-hole. "You can't set up a pub on the other side of the world and say it is truly an Aussie pub," says Andre Dempers, 25. "It's the locals that make a pub."

Other brewers are cashing in on the Aussie craze. Pubs with names such as Roobars, Sheila's Bar Barbie and Ned Kelly's are opening up in competition. After all, there are not many great beer-drinking cultures left to be celebrated, after the makeovers of the past decade - English traditional, American, Irish, and sports. The Seventies' fashion for German bierkellers could be revived, but Germany isn't really fun in the way that Sydney and Dublin seem to be.

Eastern Europe offers some possibilities for the next generation of bars. With Boris Yeltsin as cheerleader, they certainly have a drinking culture. And the "Revolution" bars, based on vodkas, have caught on in the North- west. But the problem for marketing men, as they plunder world culture, is that big profit comes from beer, not spirits.

One possible next step is the radio pub, says Paul Day, editor of the Stockport-based Theme magazine. In Newcastle, a local radio station already broadcasts from a pub called FMs. Liverpool has the Cafe Jazz Bar, linked to Jazz FM, and there is a Capital Radio Cafe in London. Capital's purchase of Virgin Radio means that it could now take the concept nationwide.

Another option could be a Seventies revival - we may soon be nibbling prawn cocktails, with flared trousers instead of football shirts on the walls, and a bar that looks like a huge platform shoe.

But the smart money is on the eco-friendly pub. Next week the Rain Forest Cafe opens in London's West End. It promises decor of "simulated tropical rain-forest", and the menu includes "Rumble in the jungle" and "Rasta pasta".

There is even something for those who worry about what they're drinking even when out on the town. It doesn't quite have the wildness of a tequila slammer or the sophistication of a Singapore sling. But perhaps in a few years, sad people that we are, we'll all be heading down to the pub for a "Don't panic, it's organic".

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookNow available in paperback
ebooks
ebookPart of The Independent’s new eBook series The Great Composers
Arts and Entertainment
Books should be for everyone, says Els, 8. Publisher Scholastic now agrees
booksAn eight-year-old saw a pirate book was ‘for boys’ and took on the publishers
Life and Style
Mary Beard received abuse after speaking positively on 'Question Time' about immigrant workers: 'When people say ridiculous, untrue and hurtful things, then I think you should call them out'
tech
Life and Style
Most mail-order brides are thought to come from Thailand, the Philippines and Romania
life
News
i100
Life and Style
tech
Voices
Margaret Thatcher, with her director of publicity Sir Gordon Reece, who helped her and the Tory Party to victory in 1979
voicesThe subject is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for former PR man DJ Taylor
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

    £22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

    Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

    £16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

    Cancer Research UK: Corporate Partnerships Volunteer Events Coordinator – London

    Voluntary: Cancer Research UK: We’re looking for someone to support our award ...

    Ashdown Group: Head of IT - Hertfordshire - £90,000

    £70000 - £90000 per annum + bonus + car allowance + benefits: Ashdown Group: H...

    Day In a Page

    General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

    Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

    The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
    Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

    Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

    Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
    Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

    Marginal Streets project documents voters

    Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
    Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

    The real-life kingdom of Westeros

    Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
    How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

    How to survive a Twitter mauling

    Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
    Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

    At dawn, the young remember the young

    A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

    Follow the money as never before

    Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

    Samuel West interview

    The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
    General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

    The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
    Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

    Confessions of a former PR man

    The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

    Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

    Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
    London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

    The mother of all goodbyes

    Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
    Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

    Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

    The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
    Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions