Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Barrio Chino

Off the back of his Outstanding achievement award at the 2010 Australian Bar Awards, an appearance alongside Martha Stewart and the success at The Dutch in NYC, Startender Naren Young is back in Sydney for ten days only.

Bedding down the beverage program at Barrio Chino, and tapping Tecates for a few friends, he has shrugged off the time difference and looks 100% at home.

Barrio Chino is a new Mexican paradise, tucked down Bayswater Rd.

The food was getting great raps from everyone who’s eaten there. The type of fresh Mexican flavours that are such a rarity here. Naren has spent these last many years involved in the setting up of what the Amercians like to call beverage programs. Essentially, what gets delivered is a restaurant and bar that exist side by side. The bar is good enough it could thrive on its own, so is the restaurant. Paired together, they are a potent force.

I will be back to try the food directly, but the bar is great on its own. A real showcase of agave and its many facets.

There are masterful touches everywhere.

On the back bar there are some rarites, curiousities and even a couple of legends.

The list offers a handful of choices. Jar shaken pitchers of Tommy’s, balance perfect, perhaps the shareable first round available in the country.

The breakfast margarita picks up all the sweet zesty goodness that marmalade has to offer, but with the addition of an earthy agave heart that will leave you wondering why you’ve made this drink when any other spirit. The options offer a range of texture and formats. Long, short, touched with seductive smoky hint of mezcal. All singing, all dancing, all agave.

I would challenge any person who doesn’t like tequila to not find a drink that becomes their favourite.

The bar also signature serves Tecate, complete with gingery salt encrusted limes. Squeeze the juice into your can and knock it back.

Get into it.

Barrio Chino

28-30 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross

ph. 8021 9750

On Google maps here.

Bar, Restaurant

Ash St Cellar

Part of the Ivy, and yet not a part of it at all. Proceed as usual, like you were about to head on up to the pool bar to blow a months worth of wages persauding some blondes to sit with you.

At the last minute, turn right instead of left and walk into Europe instead of Miami Beach.

From a cocktail perspective, the Martini was excellent. The barkeep used a method I’d not seen before, using the shaker as an ice bath for the glass. I’m not sure how he achieved dilution but my 7:1 Martin Millers and Noilly Pratt was deliciously fresh & floral and the perfect antidote to the last week before Christmas workday.

They obviously don’t get to make too many cocktails here, as he was keen for me to have a second. While the first recommendation of a French Martini seemed a little odd, the follow up offer of a Sazerac was pretty much bang on. Again, the method was new to me, shaken Sazeracs are something I’ve only ever really heard about from Simon Difford. I did think that he was taking the piss in the same way Jacob Briars does with his Corpse Reviver Number Blue.

The Hennessey VS was cloudy by the time it had had the bejesus shaken out of it, and while this method amalgamates the flavours of the Sazerac, I have to say I like mine better stirred, with the notes a little further apart.

Outside dining can be hard to come by in Sydney, and Ash St, plus the new bistro across the lane, Felix, delivers in spades. Folks come in droves to Ash St for the fare and the wine list. The Farr Chardonnay from Geelong was delicious. On the food front the lamb cutlets were jucy and divine but the true standout for me was the deliciously juicy Chorizo roll. I’m thinking about going back for a second one at lunch.

Ash St also has a large screen for decadent movies, intoxicating wines and attentive service.

On Google Maps, here.

1 Ash Street
Sydney NSW 2000
Phone (02) 9240 3000
Web :


Bar, New Zealand, Restaurant

On Tour: Logan Brown

Ok, so Logan Brown is really a more of a restaurant than a bar, but I have a connection here that drew me back like a moth to a flame.

Logan Brown is the first place I can remember making the jump from from mixed drinks and the occasional shaker/shooter into the esteemed and wonderful world of the cocktail proper. This transition was not heralded by anything as lofty as a desire to become (more) stylish, cultured or storied. I was, like many before me, led to the shrine of the fancy drink by the wiles of a hot female bartender. I forget how many drinks I purchased, or hours I spent, but obviously in the end it was completely time well spent. Back in Wellington for the first time in years, I simply had to make time for a visit.

Cuba St is a revelation to all who love good food and drink, a colorful stroll up the mall and one block more will deposit you on the corner of Vivian and Cuba, looking across the intersection at the old time bank that houses Logan Brown.

Enter, take a stool at the bar and ask for a free table for lunch. Stick to the classics; well made G&T’s, hand shaken daiquiris, a Negroni or two. The wine list is also fantastic.

I couldn’t finish without mention of the food. Chef’s Steve and Al love the access to ingredients that New Zealand affords, and the menu reflects that. Game, Kai Moana (The bounty of the Sea) and the best vegetables available dress the plates.  You must try Paua Ravioli, New Zealand’s native abalone, encased in perfect pasta pockets, swimming in a lime beurre blanc. I think it’s worth flying around the world for.

All round a great place for fine food, cold drinks and engaging company. Just like this lovely bunch at the bar really.
192 Cuba Street, Wellington 6141, New Zealand‎ – (04) 801 5114‎

On Google maps here, and online here as well.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

The Rum Diaries

Last Friday I made the trek down the Bondi Rd to get around to doing something I have been meaning to do for some time. Visiting the Rum Diaries.

If I’m totally honest, I was going with more than a small sense of trepidation, having been told that the service had slipped, the place had gone downhill and things just weren’t what they used to be. That said, I had picked the restaurant and I was going to stick by it.

Overall verdict for the night: They absolutely nailed it. I don’t where all those naysayers were talking about, but they obviously weren’t at the same place I was.

We got the fantastically beautiful table cocooned in wood just by the door, and while the service can be a touch slow to come to attention I felt it matched the style of its surroundings, Bondi is a laid back sort of a place. I ordered The Planter’s Punch for the table and asked our waiter to order for me on the food. The Punch was great, not oversweet or strong, the lists said serves two but four would probably be more accurate. The passionfruit syrup in it makes the drink.

The food was wonderful, and while this is very much a blog about drinking, it would be remiss of me not to mention the scallops and the special of the day, seared tuna sashimi. Amazing, perfectly cooked, flavourful, delicious. James, the owner joined us for a quick drink and a few words about the spiritual home of his fledging cocktalian empire (re:love also runs white revolver & cream tangerine in Bondi) He obviously loves what he does, and the staff pick up when he is there leading things from the front. The food is a sharing concept, not quite tapas, but very familiar. It lends itself to a boozy, chatty dinner very well.

Mid-meal we sipped on hand shaken daiquiris, tart and strong not over sugared. A touch later Blazers hit the table, overproof rum mixed with freshly grated herbs, spices and peels. The story was spun that the drink is from Prohibition days, which my experience with Dale deGrof tells me is incorrect and about 80 years late for Jerry Thomas’s gizzard shaker. But a less informed or cynical group (like my guests) lapped it up. The tatse is like christmas, rich and deep. Warming to even the coldest soul.

We finished on Ron Collinses, the balanced mix of rum, sugar and citrus, teased long with soda. served in glass tea/punch cups. Again, balanced.

My sum up: If you’re looking for a relaxed place with good drinks, tasty, well prepared food in a room full of well dressed 20-30 somethings, this is your place.

I will be back to try the rest of the list and to sit outside by the phonograph, a smile on my face.

288 Bondi Rd, on google maps here.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Café Pacifico


Tucked in the wrong end of Darlinghurst, close to William St and a short downhill stretch from Oxford you can ascend a red staircase to the gods.

A crowded bar on most nights, packed to the gunnels on weekends, Phil Bayly provides the cities best collection of 100% agave tequila. Book for dinner, but arrive early enough for just a couple of libacious treats before you sit to eat. First on my list would have to be a Tommy’s Margarita, a heavenly mix of tequila, limes and agave syrup. It is quite simply one of the best drinks in the whole wide world. The bartenders here are great, so try anything with a reasonable degree of certainty. There’s a great selection of rums available behind the bar as well.

A visit would not be complete without taking a seat for real great Cal-Mex food. order liberally, add a few jugs of Magrarita or Mexican Sangria to keep everyone pounding along. The Fajitas are awesome, order a few different things to share.

Stay for the nightly shots, sangrita and streamers accompanying cheesy tequila tracks.

A great night all round.

95 Riley St, East Sydney NSW 2010, Australia
+61 2 9360 3811

Google map here.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Hugo’s Bar Pizza

Mojito - Photo by Foraggio Photo

Let’s face it, Bayswater road can be a bit hit and miss. Venues like the Bayz nestle beside crowds of extremely drunk tweens, calling anyone over the age of 23 ‘old mate’.

Walking through this can be a pain in the ass. Sitting on a comfortable seat, sipping a perfect mojito while tucking into and asparagus pizza on a gluten free base while watching aforementioned tweens making asses of themselves, however, can be an extremely fun experience.

Booking is advisable, but you can generally turn up before 7 and still get a seat outside. The seats on Bayswater Rd, right at the front are my pick for the view, but you’ll get attentive service wherever you sit.

On the Cocktail List, I really enjoyed the Spaghetti Western, a Havana Club negroni clone featuring aperol. The Peach Sidecar was also mighty fine, and as the photo on this post suggests, they do a good mojito.

The Pizza’s were perfected by Pete Evans, before he moved to Melbourne to concentrate on his new venue, The Pantry. He’s still the consulting chef, and his fresh stamp is still very much in evidence. Gluten free bases are available on all pizza’s for any of you that have friends in advertising who’re convinced they’ve got celiac disease.

A great place to meet a small group of friends for a bite and some good drinks.

33 Bayswater Rd, Kings Cross.  (02) 9332 1227

On Google Maps here.

Bar, Restaurant, Sydney


Gazebo Wine GardenIt’s been a while since a venue has pulled me back for a second night in a row over a weekend, but Gazebo achieved this feat on Friday and Saturday night.

The stylish counterpoint to King’s Cross Police Station and the adjacent park warms up from early evening, with outside gas heaters and radiants keeping away all but the most persistent gusts of late winter chill. Cocktail wise, the Negroni was excellent, well iced and perfectly diluted when it hit the table. The Garden jars of Pimms could have done with a splash of ginger to better suit my palate, but the were beautifully presented with heaps of fresh fruit keeping the colour up.

The staff are friendly and attentive, even when every table is in full swing they keep the drinks coming and the table clear. A great wine list, including Australia’s world famous Grange by the glass and solid representations from around the world are enough to keep everyone busy, happy and merry. The beer list is small by Aussie standards, but the addition of the Asahi Black, a lager style stout from the land of the rising sun keeps things interesting.

Food is available, choices of entrees easily adapted to Tapas style eating and Mains that represent great value and taste, stars for me; the calamari, the sausage roll, the roma salad and the provencal mussels.

Book if you can, turn up if you can’t. Superb fun with a group, small or large.

02 9357 5333

2 Elizabeth Bay Rd, Sydney 2011.

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Bar, Restaurant, Sydney


Picture 5

Toko sets the bar for modern Japanese in Sydney, while its not the same as the food I’ve enjoyed in the land of the rising sun, it does a fantastic job of showcasing the fantastic seafood that is available here. 

There are no bookings taken here, apart from the large function room out the back that’s only really available to groups of 20 plus. Arrive early if you are looking to eat, especially on the weekend. The experience of being told there is a 2 hour wait isn’t perhaps the warmest way to first experience a restaurant but the fare is definitely worth the wait.

Toko, despite high prices seems completely unaffected by the recession, so expect a crowd to go with that wait.

All of this apparent negativity is tempered by the cocktails on offer. There is a plethora of handcrafted ingredients available behind the bar, from infusions of liquor, authentic japanese ingredients and sugars, not to mention a mammoth block of double frozen ice sitting on the countertop.

Standouts for me are the Old Fashioned and the Sazerac, both great examples of modern variations on the original, they capture the essence but offer something interesting, contemporary and tasty. This one’s also a contempo classic winner:

Ume Plum Crusta

Muddled Ume plums (a salty preserved Tokyo treat) with Hennessy VSOP, plum sake and lemon juice, served with a citrus sugar rim.


The longer drinks are great too, especially when temperatures in Sydney start to climb and the out door seating area really comes into play.

Yamazaki Mule

Red grapes muddled with quince paste & ginger sugar, shaken up with Glenfiddich 15yr old, poured long with ginger beer.


490 crown street

surry hills
nsw australia 2010

Google map here.

T: +61 2 9357 6100

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Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Spice Temple.

Picture 16

Tucked under the Rockpool grill, behind an LCD panel door and down a stairwell best described as circuitous, Sit the luxuriant bolt hole of Spice Temple. Chili, vinegar, szechuan pepper and other scents of the orient pervade the room. It is, quite simply, intoxicating.

Picture 17

Before dinner started we had a short wait and made good use of it by ordering a selection from the cocktail menu. Being a horse year, I ordered a horse.

Fresh pomegranate, molasses and Cuban rum sounded like me. While the finished result didn’t necessarily conform with my idea of what a balanced drink should be, it was a perfect way to ready my palate for an incredibly spicy encounter at the table.

Go to this restaurant, the cocktails are interesting if not great, and the food is amazing. 

10 Bligh St, Sydney 2000. Downstairs.

+61 2 8078 1888

Google Map.

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Bar, Cocktail, Restaurant

Man on Fire Friday Fix

Like a smoky dentist’s chair, burning to the ground, the Man on Fire delivers a unique drinking experience. This wonderful drop is one of three  new drinks on the Bayswater Brasserie list.

This little beauty rests over their patented new crazy ice, blending Tallisker and Mescal in a rocks glass rimmed with smoked salt.

Best enjoyed with a cigar in the garden. 

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Bar, Cocktail, Restaurant, Wine

Cafe Sydney


Can’t really be too positive about this place. The food was exceptional – small but oh so sweet Sydney rock oysters, perfectly cooked spicy smoky venison, and a lovely little fig and pear tart for dessert. Washed down with Torbreck ‘Struie’ Shiraz. Simply Divine.

On the cocktail front, I had a delightfully smooth Matusalem Gran Reserva Old Fashioned. 

The view caps off this epic venue, which does the simple things flawlessly.

Customs House, 5th Floor, 31 Alfred St, Circular Quay, Sydney.

(02) 9251 8683

Google Map.

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