Peanut Butter Bar Sydney: The Beginning of Something Big
9 April, 2020
Christine Elbakht had a dream, one which nobody else is likely to have had, but one which is easily comprehended by most of us. That dream - to own a tap from which peanut butter flows, all day, and all night.
Christine was born and raised in Sydney’s West, more specifically, in the suburb of Blacktown. From a young age she had ambitions to travel, and live the high life of a “corporate player”, which she brought to fruition when she landed a job with Loreal at age 21. What followed was a 25-year career which peaked when she landed the much sought-after position of Regional Director of the Middle East to Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy, working on designer brands Givenchy, Kenzo and Fendi, in what was to be an “extremely stressful but rewarding job”. Her love affair with the corporate dash was true and long, but ultimately impermanent. “I fell out of love with the corporate world, and I wanted a piece of the fast-paced environment of hospitality."
The peanut butter began flowing, quite literally, at Peanut Butter Bar in early 2017. However, less seen was the year's worth of late-night planning which made it happen. It began with an idea; “I wanted to create my own hospitality brand, and I’d been a peanut butter addict all of my life to that point.”
“Whenever I eat out, I take the peanut butter option”
"Whenever I eat out, I take the peanut butter option”. A restaurant formed around Christine’s childhood nostalgia for the humble nut butter seemed natural, but the Peanut Butter Bar was intended as, and has since inception been, as much about the experience as the culinary offerings. “I wanted it to be a place where people hangout, enjoy food and music”.
Peanut Butter Bar is resident on Leichhardt’s iconic Norton Street, but the hunt for a home-base was what Christine refers to as the first of “a series of disasters”. Those of more rose-tinted glasses persuasion, and be it less realistic perception, may consider said disasters as ‘learning curves’. Perhaps they are not exclusively either, but regardless, finding a suitable setting was an exercise in hardship; “we went through three places before Leichardt”.
“Growing up, Norton street was always an iconic strip – I have a very romantic connection with Norton Street”
For Christine, settling for a space which was anything but entirely consistent with her vision would never be acceptable. “I wanted to build an iconic brand, and that required a big place, an ‘in-your-face’ kind of place”. Growing up in Sydney’s West in the early 1980s, Norton Street was a bustling social hub, especially amongst the Italian community, and Christine has always harboured a passion for the area, saying, “Growing up, Norton street was always an iconic strip – I have a very romantic connection with Norton Street”.
“customers loved the atmosphere and the peanut butter, but wanted somewhere they could hangout for longer”
So, what exactly does a menu based around Peanut Butter look like? Originally, the offerings very much catered to the fitness community; high-protein indulgence was the prevailing theme of a dessert bar centred around Christine’s adulation of “baked goods, cheesecake and the saltiness of peanut butter contrasted with the sweetness of chocolate”. Despite being well-received, a brand health-check suggested the product was niche to a point of detriment, “the feedback was that customers loved the atmosphere and the peanut butter, but wanted somewhere they could hangout for longer periods of time. It was hard to have the courage to make large changes to the brand after two years of trade.” The re-brand featured the implementation of a savoury menu, with a peanut butter spin, and included a range of burgers and loaded fries, amongst others offerings which constitute foreplay to the main acts of cookie dough skillets, Reese’s PB Cheesecake, decadent brownies and melt-in-your-mouth peanut butter cookies, all which are serviced by the now famous, perpetually flowing tap of liquid peanut butter. Remaining unchanged is the anchoring ethos that “everything is authentic, fresh and prepared on-site daily”.
The Peanut Butter Bar’s third birthday is fast approaching, and despite its firmly established status as a Sydney cheat-meal institution, its final form is still a distant ideal. Christine says the plan was, and has always been, to “take the Peanut Butter Bar everywhere and anywhere, both interstate and global. We have done a lot of trademarking in New Zealand, Europe, the UK and US. I have always envisioned the Peanut Butter Bar in LA and New York. It is a long and hard process, but I am here every day because I love it.”
Peanut Butter Bar
TUES TO THURS : 5PM - 10PM
FRI : 12PM - 11PM
SAT : 11AM - 11PM
SUN : 11AM - 10PM
161 Norton Street, Leichardt