Out with the old ... the Marlborough has been blessed by refurbishment with Miss Peaches Soul Food Kitchen adding competition to many Americana themed bars close-by. Photo: Lidia Nikonova
Not one to be left out of the great Newtown pub renovation party of 2013, the Marlborough has joined the Newtown Hotel, the Bank and the Sando in sprucing up its digs.
Sticky carpet and drunk uni students have made way for neat plaid carpet and a beer garden resplendent with artificial turf and dainty garden sets.
And lo and behold, there is a brand newbie upstairs (accessible via a side entrance on Missenden Road) frying up New Orleans food and live jazz.
Quite a hand full ... shrimp po'boy sliders. Photo: Lidia Nikonova
Yes, yes, yet another American-themed bar, I hear you say.
We're bordering on cultural cringe here in Newtown, with Hartsyard, the Midnight Special, Sixth Borough and Mary's all strumming on the Americana theme.
Still, it's hard to go past shrimp po'boy sliders and rum-and-raisin root beer float.
Aromatic ... the rum-and-raisin root beer float is spicy and potent.
Miss Peaches does both very well - the former are palm-size rolls with greasy fried shrimp and maple bacon ketchup ($8 for two), and the latter is a big stein of Flor de Cana, spiced rum and potent ginger beer with a huge scoop of molasses ice-cream on top ($17). A dessert and a drink in one.
They were a couple of high points in a mixed experience at Miss Peaches. Some of the drinks and food were average, and the service a bit nonchalant, but overall, it does very well as a casual hangout that's neither stuffy nor difficult.
A list of eight cocktails goes hard on the New Orleans theme, with ingredients such as grape soda pop and grandma's ginger beer.
Four of them come in at the nice price of $15 but the Mississippi Sour (Laird's applejack, lemon, bitters, spicy honey ginger syrup) is $17 for a small jam jar filled with one-third cocktail and two-thirds ice.
Skip the sour for the Hot Buttered-Pumpkin Rum, a small, strange-sounding drink that warms the cockles on a winter's night. Two shots of Pampero, agave and a creamy butternut pumpkin reduction are mixed with boiling water and topped with spice ($15) to create a beautiful little drink to sip on. I'd order it by the bucket.
Home-made sodas such as sarsaparilla and ginger beer ($5), and American beers such as Sierra Nevada pale ale ($8.50) are good options, especially with a box of succulent fried chicken priced by the piece ($4).
The wines are mostly Californian drops, with a cheap red and white ''hooch'', or house wine, that tastes on par with its $7.50 price tag.
I get what they're trying to achieve with the New Orleans cooking but some of it didn'tquite get there. Gumbo, jambalaya and grits with gravy beef have to be outstanding; otherwise, it's just sludge that all tastes the same.
The bell peppers stuffed with eggplant and melted cheese ($15) were bland, but the sliders filled with mac'n'cheese, fried chicken, chicken-fried steak or beef short rib ($18 for three) were delicious, and the collard greens ($7) made a solid side.
When the live band is cranking and neon lights flickering, this place transforms from try-hard N'awlins impostor into a genuinely warm and enjoyable hangout.
If only some of that southern hospitality extended to the bar staff. One man was being purposely ignored when I was ordering my drinks (for reasons unknown to me) and a bartender even told him outright that ''I decide who I serve at my bar''.
There's a lot here that would make big mamma Miss Peaches proud, but that kinda talk would not.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF … you're after casual sliders and sours.
YOU'LL HATE IT IF … you've had it up to here with American-themed bars.
GO FOR … Hot Buttered-Pumpkin Rum, rum-and-raisin root beer float, po'boy sliders.
- Prices - cocktails $15-$17, bottled beers $8-$14, wine by the glass $7.50-$10.50, food $8-$18.
- Features - Bar
- Opening Hours - Wed-Sun, 5pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding