Edit: Here are some pics of Nirvana’s exterior:
I was planning to write a ‘Darwin has more X’ post like the one I wrote comparing Sydney to Melbourne, but it doesn’t seem quite fair. It would be like comparing an outpost on the edge of the Roman Empire to Rome or Florence. Make no mistake, despite what the man on the Darwin Tourist channel says, Darwin is a country town. It’s a country town that’s grown so fast it doesn’t know what to do with itself, but it’s still a country town at heart.
For someone like me who spends all his time being a style nazi, and who’s most recent suburbs of choice were Glebe in Sydney and Fitzroy in Melbourne, Darwin’s complete and utter lack of style was extremely puzzling. I only fully reached this conclusion last night but Darwin has no style. No effort is put into making things aesthetically pleasing. It’s just not something anyone here is interested in. I’m not saying that everything looks shit, just that the loftier ideals of what can only be called ‘style’ are more or less alien. Nowhere is this more apparent than the restaurant that we visited on Saturday night:
The modestly titled ‘Nirvana’ looks from the outside to be abandoned. A huge faded sign featuring a giant saxophone sits above the entrance, which for some reason resembles a dungeon, with big [fake] dungeon doors and a barred window tinted red with what could only have been fake blood splatter. The interior is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Imagine a dungeon-esque, horror themed theater restaurant with no windows, crossed with an English pub, crossed with a Chinese restaurant, crossed with a Japanese restaurant, crossed with a shearing shed, crossed with a high school art show, with a two piece blues band, serving Thai, Indian and Malaysian food and you might be close to imagining this place.
It has two bars and about six or seven interconnecting rooms, the only common design theme amongst them being the Tudor style dark wooden beams. In the rooms out the back where you can’t hear the band, a six year old Ministry of Sound Chillout compilation cd is played.
Lots of crappy American steakhouses do their best to impersonate this kind of eccentricity by putting loads of zany rubbish on their walls but Nirvana broke my mind.
Surprisingly, this total ignorance of style is actually part of Darwin’s naive charm. No one gives a fuck what you look like. Appearances have no value in Darwin, which is both refreshing and liberating.
As I sat in our dark wooden booth, eating a Massaman curry and listening to the best two piece blues/pop/soul band I’ve ever heard, a thought struck me. You would never find somewhere as insanely random as this place in Sydney or Melbourne. Never. It would tear a hole in the space-time continuum and implode. Or worse, it would be renovated to match every other generic restaurant/bar with the same chrome furniture and wall hangings that fit the theme, that ‘make sense’.
Darwin’s brand of naive disregard for the laws of aesthetics can be hard to fathom at first, but once you’ve spent a week in blue bonds singlets, shorts and thongs, it’s a mite infectious.