Bob Hawke Leisure Centre

Jackie McMillan
2nd Feb 2024

Born under Whitlam, it was actually Prime Minister Bob Hawke I most remember from being a kid. Hawke re-set the standard for Aussie masculinity: he loved his beer, thought strict bosses were bums; and cried on the telly when his family got in strife. So indulge my misplaced nostalgia as I tell you about a vestige of this bygone era. The Bob Hawke Beer & Leisure Centre is very much in the style of a 1980s pub, taking me straight back to my Mum sending me into the Panania Hotel to “get your father out of the front bar”. Pale institutional bricks, white exterior signage, wood panelling, gold lettering: this place is like a time capsule stuffed into a Marrickville warehouse. 

Lucky Prawn is a replica bistro that could have been plucked from the golf club in the town we took our annual holidays (Greenwell Point). It dishes up the same Chinese–Australian classics: oily prawn toast ($15) and honey king prawns ($36). While these dishes probably haven’t changed, I certainly have: nostalgia in the form of grease and sugar doesn’t eat quite like it used to. Against a Margy ($22) in a non-standard glass — a bartender rocking an 80s vintage tee told me “someone dropped an entire rack last night” — I found the steamed prawn dumplings ($15/4) more my speed. Ditto a crab omelette ($32) freshened up with greens. 

More chilli and less sweetness would have improved the chilli eggplant ($24) but again, that’s applying my 2024 self to something that isn’t trying to please it. Really what I liked about this spot was it was full of families who looked like they’d normally go up the local club for a bang-up Friday night tea. In upwardly mobile Marrickville, that was kind of a delight. The retro cricket commentator speaking in the mixed gender loo may take some getting used to: I looked around to check I’d actually closed the cubicle door.