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Newcastle Herald
Newcastle Herald

Food Bites: Neil Slater ready to re-open Battlesticks at Scratchleys

Battlesticks At Scratchleys is re-opening on November 10. Picture by Simone De Peak

Tired of waiting for the "perfect" time to re-open Battlesticks At Scratchleys, Neil Slater thought November 10 was as good a date as any.

"We're all living through this staffing crisis, we're not unique there, so we decided to push forward and get it open," he says.

"At the end of the day, it's just too nice a space to just sit there and do nothing."

Battlesticks Bar originally opened in 2016 as a tapas bar and restaurant at the western end of Scratchleys on the Wharf, right on Newcastle Harbour.

The space couldn't be used as it was intended in 2020 due to pandemic-related restrictions on restaurant dining numbers and, instead, became an extension of the Scratchleys restaurant.

"It worked out well for us during the four-square-metres rule - we could run the whole restaurant all the way through the building," Neil explains.

"But otherwise it's just been sitting there unless we have booked in a function."

Neil Slater at his Newcastle restaurant, Scratchleys. Picture by Peter Lorimer

Battlesticks At Scratchleys will be open Friday, Saturday and Sunday only "at this stage", says Neil. He'll wait to see how that goes before committing to any additional days. Battlesticks is also available to hire for functions mid-week.

"We're really excited about re-opening the bar and the feedback we've been getting just by the poster in the window is that everyone is busting to come back here," he says.

"We're changing it a little, for example, we're not going to do live music. It seemed that half the people liked it, and half the people were like 'can you please turn it down, we're trying to talk'.

"But we will have some nice music playing over the speakers, we'll do some great cocktails in addition to an extensive wine list, and people can sit by the water and enjoy the movement of Newcastle Harbour."

Neil sounds relaxed about the opening, as opposed to the 2016 launch when he was introducing something a little different to Newcastle. He agrees that the pressure is off this time around.

"We tried to do it seven days, and we tried the live music thing. We looked at the times that most people visited when we were open before and have used that as a guide.

"In hindsight we're giving the people what they want. In 2016 I was trying to do something that I thought would be great for the city.

"It was before QT and Crystalbrook came to the city and I thought we'd be in front of the curve, but it's not how our city operates. We tend to go out for dinner mid-week but don't necessarily go out to bars afterwards. So we're just going to open without that pressure, and knowing people will come on a Friday, Saturday and Sunday, and we have the opportunity to grow should the demand be there."

Battlesticks will have a "very simple" tapas-style menu that is prepared in the Scratchleys kitchen.

"The whole idea is having a conversation with a friend over a small bowl plus a glass of wine, and if that's going really well, people will think 'Why don't we get another plate and a glass?' and go from there. It will be quite European in that sense."

Battlesticks At Scratchleys will be open Friday, 4pm to midnight; Saturday, noon to late; and Sunday, noon to 10pm.

In 1989 Slater transformed a former ferry terminal into an 80-seat waterfront restaurant. Scratchleys on the Wharf had a plastic roof, outside toilets and a BYO policy.

"Brett Graham did his apprenticeship with us and back then a seaplane flew from Scratchleys to Rose Bay. People rocked up with an esky each, it was a wild time," he told the Newcastle Herald in 2016.


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