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.
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.
a. Aquarium Wharf Wheat Road, Darling Harbour
t. 9290 1570