Much was written, in loving affection and regarding barely remembered memories, at the time of Pony’s demise. Certainly, it was a sad moment; I can’t tell you how many beers I’ve consumed and how much damage I’ve done to my ears within those dirty walls and in that little upstairs band room over the years. Still, cities evolve and times change, circle of life, sunrise sunset, etc.
So as much as it was sad moment, it was one immediately followed by intrigued noises of “Oh, really?” when it became known that the team behind Cookie and The Toff in Town would be taking over the reigns of the iconic (see also: loud, at times slightly smelly, amazing, beloved, at first difficult to find when sober) Melbourne venue.
Boney (Get it? Pony? Boney? Hurr hurr hurr) is the resulting bar/restaurant/live music venue, and is what happens when you give the former Pony a good ol’ scrubbing and a facelift. Surprisingly however, and to the relief of many, I imagine, Boney doesn’t actually look THAT different to Pony.
While the beat-up old couches, the assorted lamps, and the wooden benches are gone, things are much the same layout-wise. Bar over there, arches there, places to sit over there. Neon red lights hang above diners in the main space, and the bar looks much sleeker than it once was; Boney feels at least partly related its Toff in Town brethren. That is, it’s nice to look at, with lighting that makes others nice to look at.
Apart from the new furniture and fresh facelift (there’s even a faint waft of new-paint-smell in the air), what’s most strikingly different about Boney is the addition of a kitchen, and the resulting table service. That being said, and although there aren’t any couches for plonking oneself on, Boney still feels like the sort of place one could spontaneously roll into for a casual beer, without having to gird all collective loins for a monumental wait or any “THIS IS A RESTAURANT, PEOPLE” type vibes. Rather, the vibe can be filed under the “let’s hang out, with a beer and maybe a cocktail” kind of good vibe.
The menu, from the same brains behind that of Cookie, etc, is a pretty-tantalising collection of snacks, like tofu mushroom “diggity” dogs, prawn sticks, snapper burgers, and dumplings. Boney’s open for lunch and dinner, and to take away, with an array of daily specials up its sleeve. We tried the pork belly sausages (sausages good, lentils could’ve used a bit more of something), and the night’s special of pie-and-a-beer (#omnomnom). After making a mental note to come back and try the lamb shoulder, and that hot dog, we chowed down on the ginger and lemongrass creme brulee. While certainly tasty overall, I’m not of the opinion that the menu’s the most exciting bit about Boney — although there’s something about eating creme brulee at Pony that tickles my funny bone (LOL). It sure beats stumbling down Little Collins Street to 7–11 for a box of Shapes and a pie though.
Behind the bar, there’s more than enough going on to get you well-lubricated for a debauchery and late night rollicking. Plenty of swell beer, a well-considered wine list, and a bunch of cocktails too; try the Boney Bloody Mary, before hitting the beers and a band. While we didn’t have a chance to scamper upstairs to see it, I have it on good authority from a friend that the band room is alive and well, having received a similar fresh coat of paint and good scrubbing as downstairs. He mentioned “windows!” and “higher ceilings!” and “they got rid of that stupid mixing desk” and “the DJ booth looks like a big rock thing, it’s pretty cool” — which all sounds exciting, and appealing. It’s heartening too, to note the ol’ 2am spot is still A Thing, and that there seems to be plenty set to be a-happening up there in the coming months.
There’s something about Boney that feels more mature than Pony. Maybe it’s the neon red lights, maybe it’s the food and the table service, or maybe it’s just the fact that the toilets are clean now, sans layer of floor-urine. This will no doubt infuriate some, but I for one definitely dug the vibe and the goings-on and the look and damn near everything else. The food offerings are solid, but I don’t think “WOAH, KITCHEN!” is the primary reason to be excited about Boney’s opening. Frankly, it’s just great to have a late-night place to hang out on the weekend without having to resort to the kind of venues often best described as “The Worst” — there’d been a big, Boney shaped hole in our weekend party wanderings, and by gosh it’s rather nice to have a new, not-worst, bar at which to hang out with pals, and see a band, into the morning hours. So yeah, I look forward to seeing Boney happening in earnest on the weekend, late at night and while amongst the party zone.Boney 68 Little Collins Street Melbourne