Catch Ups: Ben from The Arthouse Hotel
Our next catch-up is with the guy in charge of (perhaps!) our most special space here at The Galeries...
Introducing Ben McBeath of The Arthouse Hotel. A multi-level bar, restaurant and cocktail lounge which remains till this day, a family-owned and operated venue.
We chat with Ben about the venue's historical connection to the arts, and the intricacies that make her a truly unique space here in the heart of the CBD.
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*TG: The Arthouse Hotel is a family owned & operated venue built with over 60 years of hospitality and a love of the arts. How has this formed what The Arthouse Hotel is today?*
BM: The ArtHouse and its partners are comprised of 5 generations of hospitality and hotel operators. With a history of being connected to the arts through music, drawing, painting and many other mediums, the partners had the collective concept to deliver and convert Sydney’s Mechanical School of Arts into a public arts space once again. Sitting derelict for many years, the founding partners had the vision to restore the ArtHouse to its current rendition of a hotel, combining both passion and skill, to deliver Sydney’s first bohemian hotel and restaurant offering.
*TG: The Arthouse Hotel is more than what it seems - what are three facts not many people know about the bar/restaurant?*
BM: 1. The Dome and glass floor in on level one were originally void, to allow the fumes from the chemistry room on the ground floor to escape.
2. The ArtHouse Hotel was originally 2 buildings separated where the corridor now resides.
3. The main bar and Attic were originally used as a chapel and residence for the church staff, nuns and priests, before becoming the Mechanical School of arts, the buildings amalgamated and the final façade placed on the street front.
*TG: The building once served as Sydney’s School of Arts. Can you tell us a bit about its history, and why it was important to preserve its origins?*
BM: The gas lamp replicas in the main bar are a demonstration of the fact the Mechanical School of Arts was the first property in Sydney to have mains gas, to service light and other functional services. Built at the same time as the Harbor Bridge and QVB, many of the materials and construction was carried out with shared materials. They are a period site, that cannot be replicated due to commercial costs and detail, that today’s trades most often have been forgotten or untrained skills. The building is a time capsule, that stands today in all its glory. Unfortunately, buildings like this are not made any longer, as they are largely inaccessible, fail many modern building codes, have limitations to move throughout the property for less abled persons and simply are cost prohibitive to undertake. For this alone, the need to retain these buildings are essential and keeping them open to the public view is an important facet as well, where possible.
*TG: What does the name ‘The Arthouse Hotel’ mean and symbolise?*
BM: It’s a recognition of the Mechanical School of Arts, but a modern take on the need to open the space to greater public, through the hotel created by the founding partners.
*TG: The arts community is fundamental to the venue. In what ways does the venue celebrate and support local art?*
BM: We encourage and regularly host rotational artists and galleries throughout the year. Most importantly varying mediums and local artists trying to break onto the scene. Not whilst overlooking some of the more decorated artists of our recent history, that we’ve been fortunate enough to have donned our walls.
*TG: The Arthouse Hotel is not just a bar and restaurant, it is also a place for classes, workshops, and events. When and how did this come into existence?*
BM: By a collective energy and continued emphasis from all the partners and management to support the arts in music, modern art, classes and workshops. Its part of our DNA.
*TG: Most memorable night/event in the history of The Arthouse Hotel?*
B.M: COVID19… joking… weddings are always a happy event and every one of them brings joy to everyone attending and staff that partake in their execution.
*TG: Not many people know that The Arthouse Hotel has many unique spaces. What/where would you recommend people check out when they visit, and why?*
BM: Level 1’s Graffiti restaurant is the pinnacle of the property and so easily overlooked. Time to explore the intricacies of the building are well rewarded.
*TG: Can you share with us the most popular Cocktail Recipe at The Arthouse Hotel?*
Salted Caramel Martini
- Rim a martini glass with caramel and crushed pretzels and if caramel is runny enough, streak inside of the glass with caramel
- Add Pampero, Butterscotch Scnapps, Frangelico, Fresh Cream and Caramel to a shaker with ice and shake hard for 20-30 seconds
- Julip strain into prepped martini glass and garnish with 3 pieces of salted caramel popcorn on top
- Drink in 5 seconds because it’s delicious!