Laughing. Shots. “OMG, I know” on repeat like only new slightly boozed best friends do. This is a summary of me meeting Natalie Ng at her new home and baby, Door Knock on Pitt St in Sydney’s CBD.
Once the address of Nordic inspired restaurant, Norsk Dor (R.I.P), Door Knock makes its mark as a new CBD fave and for some (mostly me) completing your ultimate Friday night bar hop with Kittyhawk and Hubert’s in a short radius.
Nat is the consummate cool girl. There I said it. Her relaxed no bullshit vibe perfectly counteracts the stifled suits of the city and the vapour of grey financial chat that follows them. Unapologetic in her opinions, unafraid to get her hands dirty and she 100% knows her shit no matter how cool, calm and collected she may seem.
So here you are friends, meet Nat, you’ll soon discover it’s a shame she works behind the bar because she’s so much fun to hang out with in front of it.
Fuck it, let’s do it
I’ve always wanted to be that person that throws caution to the wind, let’s my hair down and says ‘yeah, fuck it, let’s do it’ but in reality my caution probably sits tucked somewhere in my jean pocket, always in arms reach like the real laid-back lady I am, y’know. Nat is far less prudent than I, much more low key and her diverse and exciting life in the hospitality industry proves just that. She tells me about it over a few casual shots of tequila.
“I was studying radiology and basically graduated that while I was working at Chinese Laundry. It was such an outlet from doing something so serious from uni. When I graduated I ended up working in my field and just kind of hated it. All power to someone who can work in a hospital but I’m the kind of person that looks at an RSPCA ad and cries. I became a pretty depressive and isolated sort of person working in radiology and I ended up just going ‘Why not do what makes me happy” and went back to hospo and here I am.”
Over 15 years Nat would traverse her way through the hospo realm, working for the likes of Merivale, Cafe Pacifico both in Sydney and London, ran Hugo’s, opened up Mojo Record Bar, went on to open up her own consultancy business, worked with Sweet & Chilli, was a Brand Ambassador for Diageo which evolved into a national role with World Class. Now here she is, sitting next to me drinking a Kiwi As (my new favourite Kiwi, Lemon, Thyme and Gin cocktail) doing her own thing. No big deal.
No BS mentality
I said it before, but Nat’s got this great no bullshit vibe which she ironically delivers with warmth. That metaphor ‘skating through life’ could easily apply to her demeanour because she appears perpetually unfazed by life’s daily challenges. It transports itself all the way through her venue; seen in her team, her attitude and all the way down to the cabin style decor.
“We actually didn’t even have the money to completely get rid of the Scandinavian vibe left behind by the previous restaurant so we just rolled with it, I think it works and we sort of made it our own.”
If you go for a drink down at Door Knock, you’ll find the subtleties are what make your experience seamless. The lighting, the different table heights, the hanging divider ropes and art on the wall, all small things that create a familiar feeling of comfort and make for the perfect cocktail session bar – which is maybe something I just made up.
Door Knock is also made tick by the undeniable fondness and respect Nat has for her people.
“Jono’s (Jonothan Carr) my bar manager, he’s like me in that he can smell bullshit from a mile away. We work quite closely together each day and we are good mates as well. We collab on most things in the bar and I think it’s important that the rest of the team know that I’m doing all the same things they are, there’s no hierarchy here. If there’s a dirty job that needs doing then I’ll get in there and do it.”
Hospitality is home
Nat was born in Malaysia but doesn’t necessarily come from your traditional family. She tells me her “dad remarried a thousand times’ which I clearly take as hyperbole but also that her mother remarried twice. As a result she has a lot of half brothers and half sisters, some close like her half sister/more best friend from her mother’s side, but others she has never really gotten to know too well. It’s easy to see why, apart from her beloved Dalmatian, Domino and partner Toby Hiscox, hospitality has become such a home for her.
“Everyone just becomes this amazing family and we’re all interconnected. Every time I move on to another project or venue I end up reaching out to people I trust and have worked with before to work on something again. That’s how this industry works well, when everyone supports each other.”
The old soul
Nat is kind of ironically cool, like when she says ‘she’s an old person trapped in a young person’s body’ I step back a bit thinking she’s about to tell me about her hobby of knitting mittens. But no, she says this because she likes to drink her weight in Sherry, because of course she does.
“There’s a bit of quirk here at Door Knock. But that’s just me really. I’ve always been a little bit weird, a little bit quirky. Yeah, actually no, I’m just a fucking weird and quirky person.”
Nat is the girl that rolls out of bed looking great and not in that cliche way they say in Elle magazine but just like a bright, happy human that happens to have impeccable skin. She’s the girl you know would back you up should you find yourself in a sticky situation, and the girl you 100% want serving you to alleviate that weird first tinder date sitch at the bar. You get it, she’s cooler than me and probably you too.
Know your shit
“I always say definitely choose your business partners very carefully and your friends in a lot of ways. People go into business with friends and stuff like that, definitely know your shit and protect yourself even as an individual and as a company. Don’t rush into anything. This is something that will change your life for the good or bad, so think about it carefully, every detail.”
As we find ourselves in this weird food and drink world where we overly romanticise and glorify things like copper stools and marble tones matched with walls the colour of instagram pink, I encourage you to go and truly get to know the people behind your favourite bars. Why not head down to Door Knock and catch up with Nat in person.