The Returned Service League – better known by its acronym RSL – runs a series of social clubs across Australia. In most cases, the vibe is an unapologetic mix of old country clubs and a scene straight out of Muriel’s Wedding. Which might explain why collective eyebrows were raised when Sydney-based designers Tom Mark Henry unveiled its latest project – a swanky café and bar in the RSL’s Rooty Hill outpost in the city’s outer western rim.

Altis Architecture cleared out the physical accretions of the past 50 years, leaving a spacious, light open volume into which Tom Mark Henry have injected a liberal jab of Scandi-chic by way of soft neutral colours, soft canvas and wool, and stone. Studioilse benches with high slatted backs act as transparent room dividers, their silhouette mirrored in the Thonet Arka armchairs, and striated wall panels. These are matched with oak and walnut table tops, two-toned banquettes, and indoor greenery that drip from lamp-shades.

The food is disarmingly casual ranging from wheels of pizzas topped with San Marzano tomatoes and Italian meats, and sharing plates of salt and pepper calamari, and veal arancini, to great stacks of burgers dripping with hot sauce mayo and stuffed with buttermilk fried chicken and even a macaroni and cheese pattie.§