Australia’s first drag and dine experience is here

Carly Williams

 No tea, no shade, but Sydney’s beloved Imperial Hotel has had quite the scandalous past.

We hear the basement was an illegal cruise sex club in the '70s, complete with saw dust floors, bathtubs, a motorbike and sex slings.

Meanwhile, modern day debauchery included drunken behaviour, brawls and the matter of bar staff allegedly slinging drugs over the counter, shutting the venue multiple times

The Grand Old Dame, as she's affectionately known, back in the '30s. Photo: Supplied

But the Grand Old Dame was always a safe place for the LGBTQI community. When homosexuality was decriminalised in ‘84, the off-the-beaten-track Imperial Hotel, or Impy, became the friendly punk-rock cousin of the commercialised Oxford Street, welcoming all patrons with open arms.

Five minutes in the smoking area would leave you with five new mates for life.

The main bar at The Impy in 2005, a troubled time for the historic venue. Photo: Getty

Now, the Impy’s doors have reopened after a $6 million reno, and the new site oozes fabulousness without losing its old charm.

Sydney Collective (the team behind Watson’s Bay Boutique Hotel) has rolled with the Priscilla Queen of the Desert theme, the ground-breaking 90s movie that was filmed at the Impy.

The gorgeous new fit out at Priscilla's includes a garden glasshouse, perfect for those long, lazy lunches in the sun. Photo: The Imperial Erskineville

The restaurant, aptly named Priscilla’s, boasts a veg-forward menu with an open kitchen and interactive ceviche bar.

The Coconut Ceviche with jalapeno agua-chile, coconut curry, radish, pickles and blue corn chips, is the showstopper, and completely vegan.

Half Roasted Cauliflower, Pickles, Tomatillo, Onion, Toum, Herbs & Lettuce Cups. Photo: The Imperial Hotel Erskineville

But there’s something for everyone at The Imperial Erskineville, a nod to their love of equality and inclusiveness. Carnivores will find an impressive protein and seafood-line up on the menu.

Certain dishes are whipped up at your table and the staff are as bright and delightful as the fresh cocktails (which are named after famous drag queens, of course!)

“The Imperial is known for its iconic drag shows and performance, so we’re keeping this alive as we move into the new generation,” says The Sydney Collective’s Fraser Short.

“But our customers also love to eat well, so we’ve put a lot of effort into ensuring the venue is a home for delicious, tasty food.”

The pudding menu has plenty of vegan options too. Photo: The Imperial Hotel Erskineville

And tasty it is, with crisp interiors to match thanks to Alex & Co. The indoor glasshouse where the old stage used to be gives the feeling of dining in the sun, and cute nooks with exposed brick are dotted throughout the main bar.

But the Impy’s foodie future is not all we have to look forward to. At the end of the day, the venue is a cultural space and community gathering point, Sydney Collective promise there’s so much more to come from this Old Dame.

Fancy nooks for late night dinner parties with flair. Photo: The Imperial Hotel Erskineville
Never a dull moment eating at Priscilla's. Photo: The Imperial Hotel Erskineville

The curtains will rise on act three later this year, a fully-functional open-terrace beer-garden and cocktail lounge on the second floor, as well as a platform for LGBTIQ exhibitions and workshops.

And finally, the last act will come to play early next year in the form of a same-sex wedding chapel constructed at the newly acquired piece of land next door. Can you imagine the fun!?

Alex & Co are responsible for the chic new interiors. Photo:c

Our final thoughts on the Imperial Erskineville? Shante you stay, honey.

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