The secret of Sydney’s Argentinian altar of meats is already well known about town. Porteño has achieved this feat by roasting entire lambs over an open pit of coals, staffing its floor with characters from a fifties sock hop and generally delivering a slice of Buenos Aires magic to any and all lucky enough to grace its doors.
Less well known was the cocktail bar, replete with an elegant lounge, upstairs on the second floor. Bars that are a part of a restaurant often struggle to attain recognition and a personality of their own. The team at Porteño have decided to give their upstairs offering a separate identity, rebranding the space Gardel’s Bar, after Carlos Gardel, the Argentine tango legend.
Sometimes a split like this drives a wedge between the offerings, severing the link and allowing two very separate offerings to develop. The boys at Gardel’s do not seem in any danger of letting this happen. The number of bars in this town who make the most of having access to cooks and the kitchen seems few and far between. The Americans call this approach “The Beverage Program” and perhaps that’s something their Canadian talent behind the bar has bought with him from North America.
The smoker, used for kingfish and the some of the meat offering no doubt, has been put to great use smoking vermouth and maple syrup. Test out the result in the frankly wonderful Thank you for smoking. A good measure of spicy Buffalo Trace bourbon, coaxed gently with smoked vermouth and syrup, and a dash or two of the Bitter Truth’s Xocolatl Mole Bitters. I had goosebumps on finishing it and I can’t wait to go back, drop the maple syrup and maybe some of the achingly perfect balance to deliver a booze forward version I imagine will put the Man very much in a Manhattan. The Smoked Adonis also gives a taste of the teams smoky goodness, albiet in a more apertif style. The almond side garnish is a nice touch too.
The proximity to the kitchen delivers some of the best bar food available in the country. I dare you to stop at one chili dog.
For the first time in quite a while, there is a bit of competition in my heart and on my palate for what I would call my favourite bar in Sydney. I’ll be back again soon.
358 Cleveland Street, Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 8399 1440