We sat down with our friends Sam and Hootan, co-owners of Brunswick West institution Shabooh Shoobah, to talk all things bars, hospitality and music.
In one sentence, could you describe what Shabooh Shoobah is?
The idea was to have a comfortable neighbourhood bar - Brunswick West didn’t really have anything like that and we wanted something where all the locals felt comfortable hanging out.
The bar is named after the INXS album and you play music here on vinyl - is music a big element of the bar?
Both of us have quite ridiculous record collections so it was always going to be the case when we opened this, we were always going to play records. It’s really an excuse to listen to our records somewhere that isn’t our lounge room at home, and of course an excuse to buy more records!
Hootan: I had some experience dealing with night hospitality, but for me it was to do with the pace. The pace of coffee and daytime trade had an urgency to it, whereas night is a different vibe. People come in and have all the time in the world to hangout, and the lifestyle is just that we get to play music, talk to people and everything. I guess in a cafe people are still working so they’re in a rush, but at a bar people are there to relax. It’s leisure time rather than work time.
And Sam, you were a chef at Heartattack and Vine before, what made you decide you wanted to own a bar?
Sam: I’ve never really worked in a daytime venue so this is what I know. I’ve always been a chef, I was at Heartattack from the start for a few years. Brunswick West felt like unexplored territory for me. I’ve always wanted to open something like this; something small with personality and a neighbourhood vibe, where you could know everyone’s name.
So you decided on Brunswick West because you were living here and nothing else was really around?
Basically, yeah. It’s that feeling of there’s a lot of people around here, all sorts of people. It’s a pretty mixed bag, our clientele are predominantly West Brunswick locals, and there’s a whole range in age group from early twenties to mid to late sixties as regular clientele. So we noticed that when we were in the area; there’s lots of people around, and when we wanted to go for a drink we had to go all the way to Brunswick bars which are like a twenty five minute walk.
Was the design of the space influenced by this, being adaptable to a range of customers?
It was really based on the space we found. We were looking for somewhere with a bit of charm and history. That’s kind of what happened with A Minor Place with Jono (owner of Wide Open Road), it was more like - what does this building want to be? And the architect told us the history of the building and the area, and that's what influenced the design. It’s the same with Wide Open Road and it being in an old factory. Not pushing against the architecture of the building. But the ideal thing we wanted here was to find an old building that was already beautiful and just walk in and not do much, but nothing is up for rent in West Brunswick because old businesses are being turned residential.
What was the space before Shabooh Shoobah?
It was a butcher shop for maybe thirty years. The landlord is the son of the original butcher, he said they bought the house in the fifties and couldn’t get a job so they pushed the whole house back to build the butcher shop at the front. He created his own business because nobody would give him a job. But it was a butcher shop that whole time til it closed the doors, and then it was sitting here for around twelve months before we took hold of it. We still get people who come in and tell us about how much they miss Sebastien, the butcher that was here.
This is probably like picking a favourite child, but what’s your favourite food and cocktail on the menu?
Sam: I never really have favourites because usually the newest thing is my favourite for a little while til I put a new thing on the menu. I do really like the Portuguese rice and beans, which is adapted from a dish I had in Lisbon, that was rice and beans and chunks of chicken with bones and chicken blood and vinegar and onions and coriander. But mine is the vegan version of that; Spanish rice and black eyed peas and flat beans and caramelised onion and pickled onion and fried onion and coriander. We’ve got a new cocktail coming onto the menu shortly that uses Wide Open Road cold brew, a bit of Mr Black coffee liqueur and vermouth, with soda and a little lemon zest.
Hootan: The N'duja soldiers for me. N'duja is a Calabrese thing, it's a spreadable spicy hot salami, and it’s basically toast soldiers made with mozzarella type cheese. It comes with a parsley lemon caper sauce and some pickles. It's been on the menu since day one, and if we take it off the menu I think we’d have blood on our hands. For cocktails, the Paloma is one of my favourites. The Paloma has tequila, a little mezcal, so a little smokiness, pomegranate juice, grapefruit juice and a few other bits and pieces.. It’s delicious, it's not super sweet because of the grapefruit juice.
You can find Shabooh Shoobah at 59A Melville Road, Brunswick West, or on instagram here.