HAPPY DAYS: the switch on the neon has been flicked. Enter: red and white checked table cloths, clear plastic table covers, framed old photos lining the walls, trailing plastic ivy. The brand new basement bar is a retro world of old Sydney Italian. Pizza by the slice is five bucks, but this spot is so much more than the pizza implied by its name.
Alexandria: things are different here. Being industrial, six o’clock is a bad time to arrive – not only is parking limited, neighbouring warehouses exhale a high volume of cars driven by those hell-bent on getting home. We walk into something akin to a warehouse party, and fittingly end up in a set of gold thrones on the edge of the dance-come-dining floor. Waiters are plentiful and enthusiastic; perhaps so plentiful they might benefit from an experienced maître d.
Prohibition is so over - the new era in Sydney is rock! Park your arse on red glitter Fendi barstools as owner (former Eau De Vie head bartender) Max Greco clashes the cymbal above the bar. Head bartender Luke Ashcon (ex-Roosevelt) asks your preference. Cocktails (all $17.50) created by Max and Luke, like Coffee and Cigarettes and Judas Kiss, rock it too, as the cocktail playlist sits inside 45 covers.
From two blocks away, the aroma of barbequed meat begins to hound you. Your pace automatically quickens, meaning you join the growing queue at a quarter to six. If lady luck smiles upon you, you dine in the first sitting. This is optimal because the centralised fire pit only accommodates two sheep and two pigs.
The end of the year is so close I can practically taste it. I’m keeping my eye on the prize by booking in some summer fun. The pretty, heritage-listed Dunbar House is offering up three hot January nights (9th, 17th and 23rd) of summer dining. We’re talking two ($55) or three ($70) courses with choices like a carpaccio of jamon iberico with sherry roasted baby beetroot and buffalo mozzarella.
Sliding into the (large) hole left by Rambutan, is this izakaya-made-easy. It’s perfectly positioned on the once-Golden Mile for a pre-clubbing protein hit, with a menu that neatly segments starches (in case you’re having trouble squeezing into this summer’s L.B.D.). It even has an enticingly timed happy hour (Friday/Saturday 10pm-11.30pm) where cocktails like the eminently quaffable Rhubabu ($15) – a sake, vodka and rhubarb blend - drop to ten bucks.
One year in, it’s happy anniversary to Anna and Dynn for this, their first bar, though they say: “We’ve been working in bars since they’ve been letting us in.” The Little Guy is the kind of neighbourhood place that feels like home – I could easily become a regular. We’re all offered birthday cake by one of the customers. The Rocks Brewery rotating tap aids The Little Guy’s craft beer following.
With identification scanning looking likely for neighbouring Kings Cross, it’s little wonder small bar Owl House tried out a prohibition theme last month! I popped in for dinner, and was delighted with my silver teapot bearing an Aviation Cocktail. It’s a devilishly light gin-based concoction that went down a treat against warm salad of quinoa, broad beans, zucchini flowers, Boston Bay mussels surrounded by a foamed mussel sauce.
With the Jones Bay edge of Pyrmont boasting better scenery, restaurants at the pointy end of Harris Street, looking onto Johnstons Bay, have had a rather hard slog. This doesn’t faze Owner Craig Jarman, who’s already developed a successful weekend brunch trade. He’s now determined to make night-time tapas work.
Stick a lid on it. Shake it. Serve it. That’s how it got started. Word on the street has it that Grasshopper makes a mean Espresso Martini (and the word is right.) Whatever your cocktail choice, this laneway bar early adopter still serves ‘em up in their signature glass jars. Owner John Toubia lets us in on a secret: “Everyone we employ goes jar crazy,” searching for new ones. Cocktails are the most popular drink here