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Bar snacks

As a long time food blog reader I often felt the slow burn of food-envy – induced by scrolling through photos of new restaurants, degustation dinners and opening parties – strike me at every turn. The drool inducing pixels of the events don’t betray the endless nights curled up in your jammies in front of the computer, methodically sorting and editing digitalised piles of photo albums and madly googling that pork dish because you forgot to take a photo of the menu again (hands up guilty bloggers).

The upside though is that sometimes lovely ladies invite you to kick back and enjoy a cocktail breakfast next to the water, complete with a long brunch of bar food favourites.

Helm bar is situated snugly next to the foot bridge at Darling Harbour and Sydney Aquarium so those without children or a fondness for visiting underwater friends may have missed it. The nautical themed bar is a down-to-earth spot with a mix of open lounge areas and an area for punters to place a bet or watch the footy.

We’re introduced to Matt, the head bartender who graciously endured being papped for the morning.

Since this is still the AM, we ease into the drinking with a shot of coffee. The Espresso Martini is a banter between bitter and sweet with a lingering sharpness of Smirnoff.

Espresso Martini: Espresso shot, Vodka, Tuaca, Kahlua (normally $17)

Helm’s take on the American classic is a bit more glam with the addition of Elderflower liqueur and natural sweetness of agave nectar to really double that Agave action.

Senorita Margarita: Jose Cuervo Traditional & St Germain Elderflower Liqueur shaken with lemons, limes & a dash of agave nectar (normally $16)

After the classic duo, Matt decides to take us to foreign territory and breaks out the big guns. A bottle of secret chilli mix is shaken with elderflower liqueur with a dash of lemon and honey. It’s an Asian infusion of sweet and sour followed with a late arriving punch of heat. It’s surprisingly addictive but might not be for the feint hearted.

Sexy Saint: St Germain Elderflower liquor, chilli mix, lemon juice & honey (normally $18)

Sonia’s face breaks out into a wide grin as a bottle of Hendricks appeared. Our notably favourite gin is thankfully muddled with cucumber and lime before a shot of the Italian Aperitif trickles through the ice and changing the drink into a sunset blush. It’s beautifully refreshing, and one of our favourites of the day.

Ginny Hendricks: Hendricks gin & Aperol muddled with cucumber, lime juice & sugar syrup, strained & topped with ruby red grapefruit juice. (normally $18)

Oriental Sweet Tart – A unique & delicate cocktail. Plymouth Gin, lychee & pear liqueur with a balanced serving of lemon juice and orgeat syrup, shaken & served low (normally $17)

If you like your drinks sweet then the Oriental Sweet Tart’s lychee and pear flavours should win you over.


Name this drink: passionfruit, lime, Disaronno and Smirnoff citrus

Our last drink is another new concoction, so new that they’ve yet to give it a name. It’s another sweet mix but with the crowd pleasing punch of passionfruit and citrus notes, it’s easily a drink we would come back to.


[clockwise from top left] Peking duck pancakes & Antipasto Plate with Lavosh, Double Smoked Ham off the Bone, Spicy Salami, Tasmanian Brie Cornichons & Salsa Verde; Salt and Pepper squid; Wedges with sour cream; Chicken Chimichanga

After swilling that much alcohol it’s time for the food to arrive: a generous mix of bar food staples along with some posher surprises.


Smoked salmon with crushed Kipfler potato, with fennel, olive, tomato and chilli salsa

The chicken chimichanga and salmon both seemed a little awkward, like turning up to the footy in a floor length gown. The smoked salmon was surprisingly refreshing and balanced against some herby potatoes but could have done without such precarious presentation.


Black Angus Sirloin Steak: Chargrilled w/ Hand Cut Fat Chips and Café de Paris Butter

The crowd favourite was the juicy steak oozing in the Cafe de Paris butter, it’s so good Simon goes back for seconds. It’s a nice twist to a pub favourite and it’s where Helm bar finds its feet.

The Verdict
A pleasing and unpretentious spot next to water where diners can sip a few cocktails at most hours. It’s an easy going sort of place with a surprisingly varied menu and some nice meal options. Helm Bar seems to be attempting to straddle two worlds: by retaining its existing clientele and also trying to target a more food savvy audience. Both goals dovetail when the kitchen focuses on revamping bar-food classics without alienating those who just want a steak with their arvo beer.

Food in hand dined as a guest of Helm Bar.
Helm Bar are also running a competition to Name this Drink. Just enter via their facebook competition page and you’ll receive a free cocktail with any food purchase.

Helm Bar
a. Aquarium Wharf Wheat Road, Darling Harbour
t. 9290 1570
w. helmbar.com.au

Helm Bar on Urbanspoon

“Two men walked into a bar…”

Normally this would descend into a terrible punchline but in this instance the result is a quirky space atop the Flinders Hotel serving a young experimental menu. Billed as “British colonial style joins an all star food crew”, the all stars here are head chefs Thomas Lim (ex-Tetsuya’s) and Mitch Orr (ex-Sepia and 2010 Young Chef Of The Year) who’ve set up a moody and compact dining room peppered with low hanging lanterns, floral upholstery and dark lacquered tables.

This is my second time here for the Duke Tuesday Tasting menu and I’ve managed to sucker in more soon-to-be converts. The boys have been offering a 6 course degustation for only $60, with dishes often changing weekly, providing the kitchen with an opportunity to experiment with new flavours and techniques.


Snacks: Gougère

We start off with a plethora of snacks. First up are the Gougère; the delicious little puffs of warm cheese and buttery choux pastry disappearing so quickly it takes me a moment to register that they’re all gone.


Snacks: Oyster Mushroom Karage

Next, a long slate of fanned out crispy oyster mushroom karage line up next to a speckled pebble of sauce. We debate what the sauce is, however I believe it has black beans blended into it, to give it a salty albiet nutty aftertaste.


Bread and butter


Snacks: Home made maple cured ham and smoked pastrami + Pimms Carafe: Pimms Cointreau, Plymouth, Sprite, Dry Ginger $35 + Rickey Tickey: Absolut, Peach Liquer, Peach, Watermelon, Lime, Soda $17

Hold up! The snacks still haven’t ended; a bowl of home made bread rolls soon arrive with a hard round of hand churned butter and although carbs is probably one of my favourite food groups it’s exponentially improved with a generous serving of shaved home-cured meats.


The Earl: Silver Tequila, Cointreau, Earl Grey Tea, Guava, Lemon $19

It’s at this moment, table about to topple over from the burgeoning weight of Parisian slates that we receive our cocktails. Cathy’s Rickey Tickey turned out to be a light-hearted tumble of flavours whilst my ‘The Earl’ was a more singular affair with tequila and Earl Grey proving natural companions.

The waitress reappeared to surprise us with an extra snack from the kitchen (this is sadly not due to my awesomeness and more so to do with one of our party being a professional chef) in the form of a crispy pork jowel bun.


With compliments from the kitchen: Butter bread, pork jowl, grilled pineapple, curry mayo, snow pea sprouts

These bite sized little sandwiches were a sunny mouthful of mayo, pineapple, butter and the unmistakable firmness of the marinated pork jowel. I was sincerely glad to discover these have made it onto the permanent menu in the form of a DIY ‘pancake party’.


1st Course – Corn: Corn husk salt, chickweed, grilled baby corn, corn stock, corn puree, corn kernels

Corn. Yes that’s what it said on the menu, the one word description gave nothing away and it was quite delightful to spoon through the bowl, musing over the different textures and forms.


2nd Course – Pearl Onion, Leek and Chicken Skin with jalepenos oil and onion pickle liquor


3rd Course – Mushroom Risotto with rice starch, pine ash, powdered black fungi, toasted rice

The onion and chicken skin proved an interesting play on texture albeit overly salty whilst the mushroom risotto was a hit. A risotto made without rice might seem quite existential but the boys have used rice starch to thicken up the sauce and hold the dish together, letting the beautiful fresh flavours of mushroom take the spotlight.


4th Course – Egg, Lapchong, Red Rice: pickled pea sprouts, crispy lap chong, slow-cooked egg

Michelle’s done her research and lights up when we’re finally served the slow-cooked egg. It’s so soft it seems to exist in a permanent state of near-splitting over the bed of lap chong and red rice.


5th Course – Smoked Beef, Gherkin, Mushroom: hickory-smoked beef blade, button mushroom puree, gherkin, sourdough crumble + With compliments from the kitchen: green beans with garlic and butter

Lastly was the crowd pleaser, a trio of beautifully smoked slices of beef served with a dousing of crunchy sourdough crumble which provided a comforting end.


Pre-dessert – Watermelon, White Chocolate, Pink Peppercorn: watermelon granita, watermelon molasses, shaved white chocolate, pink peppercorn praline

To clean our palettes a refreshing bowl of granita, the layer of molasses tastes quite woody and not heeding Fiona’s advice I ambitiously mix all the elements together before realising that the three elements don’t go together quite so well.


With compliments from the kitchen – Milk milk milk: Milk panna cotta, dulce de leche caramel, meringue, burnt milk crumble

We’re sprung another surprise, an extra dessert exploring the different textural incarnations of milk as the seven of us murmured and scraped the last smears of dulce de leche off the plate.

6th Course – Pinenut, Burnt Choc, Blueberry: liquid lemon yoghurt cake, lemon yoghurt cake, burnt chocolate, pine nut praline, blueberry, chocolate puree

The last course is an elegant little garden, with the burnt chocolate created in reminiscence of the scrapings from the edge of a cake tin. One of our party leaned back and with a wide grin declared this dish a perfect ending to his meal.


With compliments from the kitchen: Doughnuts and banana cream puree with strawberry & liquorice salt

But wait there’s more, urging ourselves to digest with greater haste, we make room for this final mouthful of the softest-doughnut-ever. It turns out that these golden orbs were pipped choux pastry, fried and filled with the fragrant banana cream. This was my perfect end to a playful meal full of surprises, youthful exuberance and yes, quirk. Our group waves goodbye to Thomas Lim and Michael Eggert as we happily stomp down the creaky stairs, sure of ourselves that we had a shared a great gastronomical laugh.


The Duke Tuesday Tasting menu $60 for 6 courses is available Tuesdays (duh) only, please book ahead.

4

The Verdict
In an intense, high pressure industry it’s great to see two young lads leading the way in developing an inventive, witty and evolving menu. Nothing is taken with too much stern seriousness and it’s always a game to delve through the abstractly plated dishes and discover what’s buried beneath. The flip-side to this sense of unburdened creativity is that not all of the dishes are crowd pleasers with some combinations pushing the creative envelope. However if you’re up for something new and want to save a bit of coin, Tuesdays at the Duke is where you’ll score a bit of fun.

Duke Bistro
a. 63 Flinders St Darlinghurst
t. 9332 3180
e. reservations(at)dukebistro.com.au
w. www.dukebistro.com.au
b. blog.dukebistro.com.au

Duke Bistro on Urbanspoon

2011 was the year we finally experienced a wind change and saw a plethora of quality South American eateries blow into town. I’m sure you’re thinking “hey trying all those tacos and pulled pork dishes is hard work” and you’re right, luckily you can now sate your queso fresco induced thirst with some Latino beer and deliciously alcoholic Agave juice at Tio’s.

Tio’s Cerveceria is billed as a ‘Guatemalan tequila bar and beer hall’ opened by two moutached Shady Pines alumni and the pedigree shows: it’s got that innate chilled out kitschy vibe with layout focused on the long wooden bar running the length of the establishment.

Drinks here are well…tequila, 70+ tequilas in fact so if it’s never been your thing, this is your best chance of converting.

Annie and I are here to down a (few) drinks before an exhibition; it’s knock-off hour but the cavernous small bar remains relatively empty except for a few chicas sipping cocktails and chatting to Jeremy Blackmore, Alex Dowd and their crew.

The whole place feels like a south-of-the-border-summer-break-frat-party waiting to happen with plastic owls, parrots, dripping wax and religious iconography dotting the walls and looping through the rafters. We pull up two stools and Jeremy arrives and asks what we’d like, we’re stumped as always so he pushes on asking whether we prefer our drinks sweet or sour. An awkward pause ensues so he declares he’ll make one of each.


Tequila with juiced lime (left) $10

I’m given the sour: he explains that they juice half a whole lime including the pip so it adds a touch of bitterness to the drink, which turned out to be quite sweet and refreshing without any trace of bitterness.


Tequila with apple, cucumber, hebs $10

Annie’s was really fruity with the strong freshness of the cucumber shouting above the herbs and apple, the drink was comparable to a Mexican Pimm’s punch.


70+ Tequilas

All the while, one of the guys behind us had been working hard to fix the broken carnival pop corn machine. With our drinks almost finished a fat paper bag of chilli corn goodness suddenly popped onto the bar in front of us; Annie and I twist open the top and started the uncontrollable munching.


Complimentary chilli popcorn

I thought it’d be wise to order one for the road and requested “something quirky”.


Tequila with coffee and condensed milk $10

A chocolated coloured glass mug arrived, it turned out to be a Vietnamese inspired concoction of coffee, condensed milk and of course, tequila. It wasn’t bad but it wasn’t a revelation either (perhaps it’s because they were using Nescafe) although I admire the boys’ creativity.

We sadly smooth out our wrinkly popcorn-bag carcass and as we chat away, a soft plop sounds the arrival of another fresh bag! We can’t resist hanging around longer, nibbling on popcorn, admiring the mismatched tiles and plastic figures until we realise time got away from us and we were running very late.

I guess a holiday in Mexico can do that to you.

4

The Verdict
A quirky laid back Tequila bar serving great drinks and free popcorn at an un-Sydney price (I’ve heard they sell salted and limed $5 tinnys). Those who aren’t fans of cerveza will be glad the boys will have brought out a printed cocktail menu by now (on the back of Mexican post cards no less). Noise levels can vary, it was murmur quiet when I was there but a friend later informed me they arrived at 8 to an uncomfortable wall of sound. But just a quiet word between you and I: Tio’s is the best place to expand your tequila based repertoire and train your liver in anticipation of that Latin getaway so swing by and start “salud”ing soon.

Tio’s Cerveceria
a. 4-14 Foster Street, Surry Hills
w. www.tioscerveceria.blogspot.com

Tio's Cervecería on Urbanspoon

Infatuation is so intoxicating most of us (guiltily) wish for the object of our delirium to undergo some form of mitosis so we can prolong that giddy feeling. As many fans of Bodega already know, Kenji Maenaka has split from the colourful Commonwealth St restaurant to setup his own Japanese tapas bar on the Waterloo food-power-block and we’re all dead keen to try this oriental relation.

While waiting for my friends, I hole up at the library and coincidentally find a manga all about…that’s right Izakayas! Oishinbo follows some food obsessed journalists tasked to create the “ultimate” menu; cue very long educational tales about the history of Sake, and the purity of authentic Japanese food, all from a pretty annoying stuck up young gun. I did learn about Junmai though: the premium Sake created without any alcohol additives, its flavour and pedigree largely determined by the percentage of grain they polish off before fermentation (the highest grade is at 50+%). The protagonists also wax lyrically about the serving temperatures of different sakes and the function of an Izakaya as a relaxed Japanese pub where easy and simple food is served to compliment the drinks.

Clearly now an Izakaya cognoscenti after reading a single manga tome, we rock up eager to dig into some Asian pub fare. I immediately love their logo and exterior signage, the slanted thick type reminiscent of the fonts Osamu Tezuka used for his famous titles (Astroboy, Kimba the white Lion).

We step inside and motion for a four seater, it’s still early and we snag a spot sandwiched between the large glass panes and a sneaky view of the bar. I’m also falling in love with their hand written calligraphy specials menu and the small touches of hot hand towels and unique hand made plates (somehow I imagine an old Japanese man somewhere hunched over his pottery wheel and hand painting these cuties).


Fried calamari: Deep fried SA calamari with mayonnaise $18

What better way to start then with some sake and fried calamari, golden curls which we slather in the Kewpie mayo.


Kenji’s Fried Chicken (KFC): Karaage chicken with mayonnaise $14.50

The cheekily named KFC follow shortly, the karaage chicken is a pleasent crunch of comfort which makes me start regretting not ordering a Sapporo.


Grilled Fish Head (Market Price): Yellow Fin Tuna Jaw $32

All this though is just nibbles to whet our appetite for the big flashy number: the grilled Yellow Fin tuna jaw. It arrives with some soy, ponzu & grated daikon and we start hacking away at it with forks, chopsticks and ultimately, fingers.


Fatty tuna cheek flesh with a drizzle of ponzu

As all good ethnic kids know, the best meat is in the cheek and jaw and this Tuna gives way to pockets of smooth and smokey fatty flesh.


Teriyaki Beef Kalbi: Glazed grilled beef ribs with green chilli relish $27.5

After wrestling with the seafood we relax with a little pot of teriyaki beef kalbi which turned out to be the star of the evening – the tender fall-a-part flesh dripping in a thick dark glaze and offset with a hit of chilli relish. We gave up on manners and picked the bones clean (elegance is not always our forte).


Pork Belly with Miso: Steamed pork belly with hoba miso and baked eggplant $22

The pork belly was last to arrive, a simple dish presented as a mound on a lone lotus leaf. The eggplant cooked in miso was a nice contrast to the steamed pork but I found the two elements didn’t seem to want to work together.


Love Koikawa (special): Almond cake with Koikawa ice cream and poached Granny Smith $13.50

Maenaka seems to have brought his famed chocolate Yogo with popcorn over him from Bodega but we opt for something new and decide to share the special dessert of almond cake and poached granny smiths: it’s light and goes down well. The others opted for Tea Ceremony, a fairly traditional combination of ice cream and stewed sweet beans.


Tea Ceremony: Vanilla bean ice cream with red beans and green tea kokuto syrup $11.50

The noise in the room’s slowly nudging itself into a turtle paced crescendo and as we get ready to leave it becomes quite busy. A few ladies are debriefing at the bar over some cocktails whilst friends and couples share some beef and tuna, although it’s still a bit rough around the edges it’s a sweet concept Sydney needs a few more of.

Three out of five

The Verdict
Most people walk in expecting a Japanese style Bodega and whilst there are echos of greatness in some of the dishes, this may be one comparison that’s hindering rather than aiding Fujiyama. For an Izakaya or a bar for that matter the dishes are quite expensive and although we left full we burned a sizable hole in our pockets. Nevertheless it’s a great atmosphere with a decent Sake collection, order the pub-style foods (beef, fried items) and you can’t go wrong.

Izakaya Fujiyama
a. 52 Waterloo St Surry Hills
t. 9698 2797
w. www.izakayafujiyama.com

Izakaya Fujiyama on Urbanspoon

If you stalk food porn you’re sure to have encountered a post on the Dip and spied some glorious photos of chef Levin’s hotdogs, burgers, nachos and grilled corn. Just like with any kind of romance (ok so mine is with food don’t judge) it’s all giddy at the start when it’s new, but it has to evolve to stay interesting. So after celebrating 6 months of dungeon deliciousness the guys at Goodgod Small Bar’s canteen have done just that.

Arriving early (well technically late but early by our standards..and it turned out by everyone else’s too) for a gig we thought it best to sooth our stomachs with a bit of American comfort beforehand, as we sidle up to the counter I looked up and saw the black board shouting “New Menu!”. We took the hint and scanned the new cards which now featured an expanded list of hot dogs along with the addition of a summer salad and hot wings.

Anyway enough talk, time to get scrolling.


The Coaster punch jug: GoodGod’s orange margarita made with 100% blue agave tequila, cointreau, orange bitters & fresh orange $33

The guys have heaps of punch jugs on offer, we opted for something citrusy but found this a bit too sweet.


Mocktail (by request) $3.50


Salsa Fries: thick cut steak fries with fresh tomato salsa and cheese $7

The fries here seem to have a size crisis, the first time I had these they were deliciously crisp with a salty salsa but the serving was very small. This time however the size has doubled but they’re not as good as I recall with a saddening salsa to chip ratio.


Aperol Spritz $8.50

After the guys at 10 William St popped my Spritz cherry it seems like a good default drink to request, not too sweet, very drinkable and it somehow masks your inability to navigate around a drinks menu. On my last visit it was promoted as a special drink for $10 however this time it was somehow a cheaper item.


Confuse di Mouth: smoked kosher hot dog with melted cheese, dill pickles, grilled onions, american mustard and ketchup $12


Watermelon and Bacon burger (special): grilled watermelon, bacon, lettuce and onions $12

Although the new hot dogs sound amazing (who can turn down peppers with relish on their dogs) my curiosity kicked in when I spotted the special item. The idea of watermelon and bacon sounds like a rather dubious marriage but I put my faith in the professionals and those guys knew what they were doing! The watermelon was just a little sweet with the density of grilled cucumber and all the ingredients bar the lettuce spent some time on the grill making the overall flavour intensely smokey, we agreed this was a must have.


Lev’s Dawg: smoked kosher hot dog with chipotle mayo, fresh tomato salsa, grilled yellow peppers and american mustard on a steamed bun $12 + Southern Smoke: 12 hour smoked pulled pork sandwiches with bbq beans, apple and cabbage slaw and bbq sauce $12

We also tried some classics, the southern smoke’s still a winner with the beautifully tender pulled pork a dove tailed match to the apple and cabbage slaw. My face got a bit messy with the super soft damper bun but we all make do with life’s hardships.


Hot Wings: red hot chicken wings with celery and ranch dipping sauce $10

The hot wings have now made their way onto the permanent menu, they were adequately hot and salty but we were under the impression they were going to be fried wings speckled with chilli much like the ones at Norfolk so we were a bit disappointed. The chicken was overcooked and I had no idea what I was meant to do with the celery which became a bit of an after thought nibble once the wings were finished.


Ice Cold Guac: sweet avocado ice cream with strawberry salsa and waffle chips $10

I liked the idea of the Ice Cold Guac and was bemused by the idea of “Mexing” up the dessert with some waffle chips and strawberry salsa. Although the taste was quite decent the serving was rather small and the iced avocado too hard.

Peanut Butter n Jelly Sandwich: peanut butter ice cream with toasted brioche and strawberry jelly $10

Another entertaining reinvention, peanut butter and jelly cold sandwich with the jelly being a runny drizzle of strawberry sauce. This too I thought was on the small side and although not bad I probably wouldn’t order it again.

The Dip’s strengths lies in Levin’s barbecuing finesse with fantastically smokey burgers and delicious hot dogs. The team would likely benefit from hiring someone who has a bit more experience with desserts or maybe source their ice cream from the Messina boys who do a mean rendition of salty peanut.Having said that it’s a pretty chill place serving good dosh up til the wee hours and in a city like Sydney with limited supper venues we can only thank the Lord we’ve got the Dip.

Three out of five

Verdict
Totally no fuss and cheery food by an ex DJ cooking with a lot of love at this American style canteen. Although sometimes there may be a slight struggle with consistency (and I’m not a big fan of the desserts) it’s still hands down my number 1 choice when I’m in the city and looking for an easy late night feed. If the bacon and watermelon burger’s still lingering around on the specials board I’d recommend you give it a go. All the food requires you to dig in and get your hands dirty; just don’t come dressed in anything too nice or your dry cleaner might be a bit upset over the sauce stains.

The Dip @ Goodgod Small Bar
a. 55 Liverpool Street Chinatown
t. 9283 8792
e. do(at)thedip.com.au
w. thedip.com.au

The Dip @ Goodgod Small Club on Urbanspoon

There’s something sexy about corruption – perhaps it’s the hedonistic boozing, politics & favours behind closed doors, beaded silk french dresses, violence in a tailored three-piece suit or the pungent pheromones from a stack of Benjamins. It may also be because I’ve been watching too much Boardwalk Empire and have a thing for Buscemi’s shrew 1920′s gangster politician and the lobster and scotch the debauched seem to be downing as they dance the night away at Babette’s Supper Club.

If it all sounds pretty dandy and you’re lamenting that time travel doesn’t seem to be a viable option how about you pay a visit to Hinky Dinks instead? The (almost) three-month old 50′s themed small bar is named after Michael ‘Hinky Dink’ Kenna a corrupt Chicago politician who, during the turn of the 20th century gave out meals in exchange for votes and kept close ties with gamblers, gangsters, prostitutes and pimps alike. His namesake bar though seems to share none of the shadiness but reflects the same cheeky attitude  (after all their motto is “Cocktails first. Questions later…”) and middle America pastel, wood and linoleum sheen.

Jenny and I turn up early on a Friday evening ready for some high end (i.e delicious cocktails) boozing, co-owner Dan Knight (ex Longrain) rushes to the door, flashes us a dazzling smile and welcomes us inside…that is as soon has he poses for a photo first.

We’re lucky and manage to snag the last corner spot in the lounge area and immediately start perusing the menu booklet whilst snacking on our complimentary popcorn.

We start off with something fresh: Jenny’s drawn to the idea of basil and honey in a cocktail whilst I instantly prick up at the sight of some potential elderflower liqueur.

HinkyDinks_03Romolo 42: 42 Below Manuka Honey, fresh basil, organic apple, fresh lemon, egg whites $16

The cocktail arrives with a lone basil leaf floating on some foamy egg white, it’s light but still quite sweet with the basil lending the drink some depth.

Elderfashioned (House-aged cocktail rested in American oak barrels): Kentucky bourbon, elderflower liqueur, aromatic bitters with citrus garnish over block ice $18

I envisaged the combination of flower liqueur and American oak would provide a nuanced mild drink however I didn’t read the description thoroughly and only later realised that the Kentucky bourbon (which I dislike) makes up a large portion of the drink which turned out to be quite stiff. The scotch drinker of our group approved though and ordered another.

Pan-fried olive and Parmesan sandwich $8

The infamous sandwich arrived and the oil from pan and cheese seems to seep through the three golden triangles with the smear of tapenade and Parmesan holding it all together. It was heart-palpitating delicious and we savoured the beautiful marriage of Parmesan and olive until the last bite.

Chicken liver parfait with cornichons & sourdough toast $16

We’re also renown lovers of a good poultry liver pate and order the chicken liver pate. It arrives in a fair sized ramekin with a thick layer of butter and some pre-buttered toasty hot sourdough. We take turns slathering on a small mound of parfait onto the bread before downing it with gusto.


Hinky Fizz: In-house strawberry and prosecco sorbet, Bombay Sapphire, elderflower liqueur, peach bitters, grapefruit fizz $16

The squeal-worthy Hinky Fizz arrives in an ice cream cup with a generous scoop of sweet prosecco sorbet paddling around in a pool of sweet summery fizz.


Zombie: Silver, aged and OP rums, Luxardo, cinnamon syrup, fresh lime, passionfruit, grapefruit juice, absinthe flame $19 + Castaway Collins: Sailor Jerry Spiced, fresh pineapple, fresh lemon, pineapple juice, in-house pomegranate and cinnamon syrup, bitters, soda $17

I urged someone to order the Zombie since it’s meant to be killer potent (orders capped at two per person!) but it turned out to be quite sweet and fruity with the alcohol largely masked by the grapefruit juice. The Castaway Collins is also an easy one to down with the pineapple juice dominating.


(Left to right, top to bottom) Dinky Five-O: Pisco, fresh lemon, in-house Five-O syrup, fresh berries, ginger beer $16 + The mint green bar + Gin ‘n’ Jam: Bombay Sapphire, Aperol, in-house rose-petal jam, fresh lemon, cranberry bitters, egg whites $17 + Extra popcorn $5

The Dinky Five-O was a happy drink with little seeds from the fresh blackberries levitating within the ginger beer but the Gin ‘n’ Jam though was amazing: the floral notes of the home-made rose petal jam providing a touch of sweet elegance.

Fried squid with aioli $16

I’ve read complaints that the squid would be too pale but found I really enjoyed them this way. The thinness of the batter allowed the taste of the squid to shine through and the addition of parsley and basil was a stroke of genius. I would seriously like to request all fried items from now on in to include a toss of fresh herbs to lighten the grease load.

Chocolate mousse $10

One of the team has an insatiable sweet tooth and couldn’t resist finishing off with some chocolate mousse which arrived in a wide-brimmed tea cup. All of a sudden everyone started making googly eyes at each other so I dipped my spoon in as well…my, who’d have thought a chocolate mousse could be this good! Little specks of chocolate hiding at the bottom amongst a thick swathe of rich chocolate cream which tastes so luxurious without being overly milky.

The well-considered cocktails of co-owner and award-winning bar tender Jeremy Shipley (ex Longrain, Guillaume at Bennelong) coupled with some seriously indulgent nibbles designed by Laif Etournaud of ONDE means we found it hard to leave. Languishing on the couches and watching the Kings Cross locals stagger by we saw groups come and go however we couldn’t part until we finished every last morsel. To leave something so good unfinished would be criminal.

The Verdict
A blend of cute, quirk and cool Hinky Dinks is a downright cosy spot to while away the evening. I’ll definitely be back to try more of Shipley’s cocktails with some meatballs and croquettes. The one downer might be that so much deliciousness can come at a price however since our last visit they’ve launched a live site and published some good value specials. They now have a happy hour which runs from 5-7pm daily with a selection of cocktails going for only $10 a pop and the must-try Parmesan & olive sandwich going for only $6. Uh oh, now you’ve got no excuse.

Hinky Dinks
a. 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
t. 8084 6379
e. info(at)hinkydinks.com.au
w. www.hinkydinks.com.au

Hinky Dinks on Urbanspoon

Despite my best efforts it’s been a bit difficult to find a time to visit Freda’s since it’s not located near many other drinking establishments except the Abercrombie so for now we’ve settled for popping by for lunch instead.

Even after some online sleuthing it took us a few moments to find Freda’s. The entrance is nondescript, a single green blackboard hangs on a gate listing a couple of daily offerings and a chalk drawn arrow pointing down the long empty driveway. We bump into a waitress who leads us down and through an opening; we step inside eyes adjusting to the cool darkness and tungsten lit space within.

The three amigos Simon Cancio (ex Sean’s Panorama, Onde, Luxe and Bourke Street bakeries), Ibrahim Kasif (ex Fish Face) and Marty Campaign (ex el Coctel) have taken over this 100 year old site and upped the charm to provide a sleek drinking hole. There’s something about warehouses which seem super awesome or maybe it’s just a personal penchant for exposed beams, bricks and industrial chic but the space just feels NYC cool.


Large Cappuccino $4.50

The two of us settle down at the window bay and are handed a single page drinks menu. I’ve yet to have my caffeine hit so played it safe whilst Jen is keen to sample the daily juice.


Daily Juice: Watermelon with Mint $4

Campaign delivers this tall glass to our table, it’s refreshing and visually intense with the added flourish of a mint sprig making it appear more like a cocktail.

The food can vary daily, the short chalkboard menu lists sandwiches and salads but we were adamant about trying the slow roasted pork sandwich. Noticing our indecision regarding salad choice (I’m failing to make all the tough decisions) the waitress suggested that she could serve a half and half: my face lit up at this compromise, it’s a fantastic solution and I lamented that not everyone could offer me half and half of everything in life.


Salad of cauliflower, quinoa, broad beans and fennel + Salad of sugar snap green bean, broccoli, hazelnut and orange vinegarette $10

Our pretty plate of greens arrive and Jen notes it’s really fresh and delicious. I love their creativity in mixing beans with hazelnuts but would say my preference lies with the cauliflower and broad bean combination. They didn’t overdo it with the quinoa which added a beautiful texture without trying too hard (unlike some other chefs, guys please take note just because it’s the super food of the moment doesn’t mean you have to use it with everything) and I’m stoked to say it’s the best quinoa dish I’ve had to date.


Slow roasted pork shoulder with cabbage and salsa verde sandwich $11

But of course munchkins we were here for the slow roasted pork sando. The floury ciabatta made fresh that morning by Cancio is light yet has enough chew resistance, the pork shoulder meat tender and slathered with the salsa verde. It comes sliced and served with half a gherkin and two slices of radishes pickled with beetroot juice.


Little details: small chunks of roast pork, dessert spoon at the ready, second hand chairs, South American scenes and tapestry

Luckily we avoided potential disaster by sharing instead of ordering two sandwiches so we still had a small empty corner in our stomachs shaped like a slice of their cake of the day.


Orange cake $7

My eyes widen when we were presented with this cake slice, it was quite a generous serving and yet homely at the same time (I’m sure if my grandma wasn’t Asian she would bake me something like this). Sliding our forks in we mused over why there wasn’t any syrup but one taste and it was obvious: the cake was already exceptionally moist with small squares of orange peel folded through. They’ve also managed to keep the sugar content down and let the natural sweetness of the orange shine. We polished this off in moments and as Campaign walked past to ask us how our cake was he laughed when he noticed our spotless plate. Somethings are just too good and we thought it best not to leave any evidence behind.

Three out of five

The Verdict
This two week old small bar has yet to catch on big so you can still have a quiet soothing lunch with your mates and sip a summer juice before heading back to the studio. I confess to being a little disappointed that the pork to bread ratio wasn’t as luxurious as that of the photos posted on their Facebook page but it still tasted amazing with my friend pining for the sandwich hours later. I’m definitely keen to come back one evening to try a few cocktails while nibbling on some beautiful Iberian bar food.

Freda’s
a. 109 Regent Street Chippendale (walk down the driveway and there should be a door to your left)
t. 8971 7336
e. info(at)fredas.com.au
w. www.fredas.com.au

Freda's on Urbanspoon

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