Interview: Jake Smyth on bringing The Unicorn Hotel back to Splendour in the Grass

Jake Smyth, best known for Sydney’s cult-burger joint Mary’s and award-winning pub The Unicorn Hotel, and his team will once again be bringing their mega popular fare up to this year’s Splendour in the Grass. Representing just how far festival food has come in the last few years, both Mary’s and The Unicorn will be operating up at the three-day festival, held in North Byron Parklands, after proving invaluable in recent years. Mary’s will be landing at the VIP Gold Bar as per usual, but The Unicorn will be out leading the impressive line-up at Splendour’s pop-up neighbourhood “The Very Small Suburb”, which also includes Gelato Messina and Allpress Espresso.

Anchoring down with a sizable chunk of space, The Unicorn will be offering a sit-down dining experience as opposed to the usual grab-and-go of festivals. This means that people are able to book the set menu (via the Splendour in the Grass mobile app) prior to rocking up, with sittings going for anywhere between 2 and 30 people per table. There will be 90 minutes sittings each day from Friday to Sunday (12pm, 2pm, 4pm and 6pm), with the menu priced at $40 per person. And just because they can, each night from 8pm the space will also turn into a good ol’ fashioned sausage sizzle.

Everything from Jatz ‘n’ French Onion to BBQ roast chook and steak frites to winter fruit pavolva is on the menu for this year (full list of dishes below) so between sets this is most definitely something you’re going to want to take advantage of.

For a bit more information we caught up with the always colourful Smyth (look out for the juicy bit of Mary’s trivia).

You guys have been up at Splendour a few times now, first with Mary’s in the VIP in 2015 then The Unicorn last year. What keeps you coming back for more?

The cold and mud and loud, drunk teenagers is why we keep coming back for sure. Definitely not the music. The music can suck one. Haha – honestly, its the best festival in the country and it consistently knocks its out of the park with its lineup. This year has us giddy.

If there’s any time between service to catch a few acts, who on this year’s line up are you most keen to see?

Sigur Ros, Bad//Dreems, King Gizzard. I’m sure we will be shutting Mary’s for Queens of the Stone Age. “Song for the Deaf” was the first tune we ever played at Mary’s. We ain’t letting no one miss this.

What are the biggest challenges trying to offer a sit-down dining experience within a festival atmosphere?

I think its just making people aware of the fact that cold fries and shit meat pies aren’t the only way to feed yourself at festivals these days. That being said, Splendour are spearheading this with some amazing offerings and experiences, not the least, The Unicorn, which is gonna be super special. Sit down, smash some Roast Chook, watch the mud fly – its a certifiable Serotonin recharge moment.

The sausage sizzle starts at 8pm. What time will it be available until?

Late night snags and white bread will be for the party animals needing to do a final bit of liquor/food juggling in the later evening. It’ll be cheap – its about fun and helping out those who need some steadying nourishment, we know that by 7:30pm most people aren’t wanting a sit down experience, so we just trying to give back to the late-night heroes.

The Unicorn @ Splendour in the Grass 2017

Price: $40pp
Bookings: via Splendour in the Grass smartphone app

For the table…
Bread and Butter
Jatz n French Onion

Choice of…

BBQ Roast Chook with Bread Sauce
Steak Frites with Garlic Butter
Flathead with Capers and Brown Butter
Roast Caulifower with Capers and Herb Butter
BBQ Pumpkin with Grape, Fennel and Blue cheese

Served with…
Honey Carrots
Leaf Salad
Potato Bake

To Finish…
Winter Fruit Pavlova

For more information on Splendour in the Grass click HERE

For more information on The Unicorn Hotel in Sydney click HERE.


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Chris Singh

Chris Singh is the Deputy Editor of the AU review and a freelance travel writer. You can reach him on Instagram by following @chrisdsingh.

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