THE EVOLUTION of underground club Spice gives the central city a gift: a fusion of music, art, booze, food if you need it and a great big dose of all night positive energy. “If you’re here drinking and dancing, we won’t close on you,” owner Rebecca Alder gives the nod. With partner DJ Murat Killic (sunrise sets every Sunday morning), she’s passionate about leading the way to a 24-hour city. As it nears the witching hour, the basement crowd changes around the same time the lights dim.
The Soda Factory
Happy Days are here again with the retro-styled entrance to this venue hiding behind a take-away hot dog joint. I was almost fooled into thinking it was a new twist on fast food until the fridge door revealed a very cool bar in the old Mars Lounge site. The Soda Factory takes on the incognito chic of Stitch, Button and Pocket to create a venue that’s already causing queues on weekends – so much so management send out containers of the rather excellent Mac and Cheese ($6) to stop the queue rioting.
Watsons Bay Hotel
A million dollar harbour view, staff in cute sailor outfits, beach umbrellas more colourful than a Ken Done calendar, what could possibly go wrong? Well, the food, that’s what. And it wasn’t just the twenty-minute wait to place my order on a sunny Sunday, nestled between a shuttle board and a group of angry Eastern Suburbs mothers.
ELEGANCE is when three single girls start the night with a coupe in hand. Legend has it the glass was moulded from Marie Antoinette's left breast. In ours, we sipped the beautiful Ruinart Champagne. We settled in for more... The Art Deco mirror that hangs above the bar showed us the drink details. So our elegant evening continued with guidance from Jacopo Craboledda in selecting our canapés and cocktails
Rainford Street Social
Poking my nose in the door as I wandered past last year, I wasn’t immediately drawn into this warmly textured dining room. More fool me, as there’s a carefully considered dining experience to be had; honed since they first opened. Plus: with a well-mixed Pineapple Negroni ($16) in your hand, it’s easy to forget it’s only hump day!
WHILE THE EXTRA top shelf spirits listed in the Downstairs Bar and the popular classic cocktails were enticing, the Saturday night birthday celebrations of our large group started with carafes ($28) of The Common’s Spritz (Aperol and Prosecco with slices of fresh cut citrus, orange blossom water and soda). Then we pretty much stuck to NSW beer: Lord Nelson Three Sheets Pale Ale ($8).
In a summer that broke numerous heat records, including a blistering Sydney day of 45.8 degrees, my favourite seasonal dish was Paul Cooper’s pretty Scallop Ceviche ($18). Guaranteed to cool your core temperature, it soothes the mouth with avocado, cucumber and creamy scallop, then surprises with a shock of intense ginger beer sorbet.
DO YOU - like me - confuse lust and love? Lust (as you might imagine) is my favourite of the 7 deadly sins. Lust: a gin based Black Penny cocktail is in my opinion the smoothest talker. We also cheered for Sin City when (on opening night) BAR FLY and her party friends tried to drink our way through the whole cocktail list. Notice I said: tried. I’m also in lust with the locals-first philosophy; Black Penny sources its alcohol from a unique mixture of boutique, as well as larger producers such as Coopers, Young Henry's, The Hills Cider Company and the Balmain Brewing Company.
The highlight of my working week was meeting fetish icon (well I do run The Hellfire Club) and Cointreau ambassador Dita Von Teese at The Victoria Room. While Dita mixed her own favourite Cointreau cocktail to a barrage of camera-wielding journalists and food bloggers, I was most taken with Head Bartender Luke Hanzlicek’s tribute drink, Dita’s Fizz. It’s an infinitely quaffable blend of ruby red grapefruit, mint, rose water, soda and Cointreau. If hearing about this has given you a thirst for some Cointreau of your own, head to the Cointreau Fizz Lounge at the 2013 Taste of Sydney Festival which runs from Thursday 14th to Sunday 17th March.
P. J. Gallagher’s
The clientele at this Entertainment Quarter hotspot changes dramatically depending upon which band is checking in. I was surrounded by emo teens there for a Soundwave sideshow, but you can imagine a very different story if it was Pink at the Hordern Pavilion. But that’s the beauty of this Irish bar: it's not just frequented by the Irish. Outdoor dining under the trees is perfect for sinking a few beers pre-show, but it’s also great for a pub meal with a Celtic twist.