Longrain was born in 1999; the same year The Matrix hit Aussie cinemas and the band The Offspring sat at No. 1 in the charts for 6 weeks with the punk pop song Pretty Fly (for a White Guy). That year it was no small feat that three guys were able to open a large modern Asian joint in Surry Hills and make it work.
Those three guys were waiter Sam Christie, chef Martin Boetz and Rob Sample. 1999 was an exciting time. Sydney was about to host the Olympic games, Y2K was on the horizon and a new technological era was about to dawn. With this new wave of energy, Sydney’s streets were seeing a rush of creative juices in new bar and restaurant openings. Or in Longrain’s case, with the opening of a place that combined DJ's, drinking (stick cocktails oozing with fresh tropical fruit, Asian herbs & lots of spice!) and beautiful S.E Asian food with great service, that was not stuffy.
“We used to use the really big muddling sticks, like bakers rolling pins to crush the lime and the other fruit in the glass and we would add 60mls of vodka and people were smashing them down for $12 a pop in 1999.
“When we first opened, there was kind of nothing around us. There was a great furniture shop across the road; abandoned buildings; little Chinese chequer houses, probably a couple of houses of ill repute, and that was about it,” says Sam reflecting on when he first found the warehouse.
“I remember when I first went to look at the space, it was massive and I knew the area quite well ‘cos it is so close to everything. But it was really tucked away and no one really ventured that block off Oxford Street,”Christie says.
The Longrain mission was all about casting aside old ideals of elitism and replacing them with an ideal that quality can be available in a fun and engaging atmosphere. Packaging this up in a Thai bent at this time was ground breaking and has lead to a plethora of similar concepts globally.
Now founder Sam Christie says the lower Surry Hills neighbourhood is again jumping with activity, bringing new faces and loyal locals into Longrain.
“Up until 2 weeks ago Commonwealth Street was still full of tradies’ vehicles. After for 4 years now we’ve got Poly open and finally they're all gone. We have a large Thai-restaurant-import from Melbourne on the other corner, The Paramount House Hotel, Paramount Coffee and Paramount Recreation Club & Kiosk. Plus there is a fried chicken joint called Butter underneath us,” Christie says.
“It feels great to be turning 19 and I am very grateful to all the people that have worked hard to get us this far,” he says. As Longrain celebrates this week, Sam says it’s interesting to note the that while Oxford Street has died - and with along it much of the fabulous gay culture the strip was known for - Longrain hosted its first same sex marriage and wedding reception on the weekend.
“It was great, the couple were actually married in the restaurant, and they used the corner dining room for relatives and main dining room for their friends,” says Christie.
Longrain has seen many incarnations. Rolling through lounge and bar, the opening of Longrain Melbourne, Bunker Bar downstairs in Sydney, Short Grain take away, to finally the opening of Longrain Tokyo in August 2017 in Ebisu.
“I don’t know for sure what’s next at Longrain. I would like to think there's another 20 years in the place. But we'll have to wait and see. Things change. I have always got a lot of ideas and concepts floating around in my head. So we may morph it a little bit in the future,” says Christie.
Gallery of Longrain images below (click for next)