The Dolphin Hotel’s resident artist

Author: Sam Teague
Photography: Courtesy of Beni Single and The Dolphin

Beni Single isn't a painter by trade. On an average day you'll find him deejaying or producing an album, but, for the past five months he's been painting Sydney's Dolphin Hotel.

Recently rebooted by restaurateur Maurice Terzini, with the help of designer George Livissianis and sculptor Tracey Deep, the pub is now an arcade of black and white rooms. There's a wine room, dining room and a two-storey public bar.

The pub's unique design sees canvas and rope lining the walls, plastic-wrapped stools, a white-painted tree and Single's cartoonish murals, which start with an oversized wine glass on the outside of the building. They continue throughout in patterned banquettes and smaller details, including cartoon sausages sprinting over coasters and faces on toilet doors.

We caught up with Single to discuss the inspiration behind the lines.

Read our review of The Dolphin Hotel

Art isn't your usual line of work, how did you get involved with the design of The Dolphin Hotel?

I've done a lot of work for Maurice in the past. Do you remember the restaurant he had in Melbourne, Giuseppe, Arnaldo & Sons? I did all the design for that and the concept of the menus. I then did a lot of artwork at [now closed] North Bondi Italian Food. I've also hand-drawn 90 per cent of the tattoos on Maurice's body. I think that's the main reason why he trusts me.

Do you have a background in art?

I come from an illustrator background, but I've sort of stepped away from that to concentrate on music. However, I will always keep a part of it to work for Maurice. The Dolphin Hotel job is a lot bigger than anything I've done for him before. When I look back on it, I realise that, but working with Maurice and his team is just a dream. He treats me how he treats his chefs: if he trusts them he gives them full reign. He lets you do your thing.

It's quite a big space, how long did it take?

It's still ongoing. I don't think it was ever meant to be as big as it was, but it kept snowballing. There's a private dining room happening upstairs. We are just going to keep adding and adding, and then move onto the next one, I guess.

A lot of people say that your work at The Dolphin Hotel shares similarities with Keith Haring's, was he an inspiration?

He is one of my favourite artists - and that is pretty obvious. But I also think if you do any thick-line drawing on a large scale it's going to look like Keith Haring. There were a lot of other inspirations too; Aztec art, Aboriginal art, Egyptian art and hieroglyphics.

Illustrations in The Dolphin Hotel's public bar.

Where did the running sausage illustrations on the coasters come from?

It's very funny how many people have noticed that the sausage doesn't have any arms. But then it's like - what sausage has arms?

Where is your favourite place to drink at The Dolphin Hotel?

I love the wine room. I just ask James [Hird] to pour me whatever he thinks is good. He's very knowledgeable about wine and passionate about naturals. I really enjoy that.

And a favourite dish?

The schnitzel in the public bar or the pork and prawn tortellini in the wine room. And the wine gummies. They're candies made out of natural wine, like the gummies you'd have as a kid. I used to eat them while I was painting for a little sugar hit.

The Dolphin Hotel, 412 Crown St, Surry Hills, NSW, (02) 9331 4800,

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