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.
Romolo 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.
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.
a. 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
t. 8084 6379