Bar, New Zealand

On Tour: Agents and Merchants

A second little find for me this last weekend in New Zealand was A&M, partner venue to the esteemed Racket, hiding down a little alleyway just off Customs St East in Auckland’s Britomart development.

The laneways here are what is called contrived, like much of Birtomart’s development. BUT, and that is meant to be a big but, the team at A&M have done their level best to make their bar feel as though it is in Melbourne, and not the bottom of a Westpac office building. I believe they have succeeded.

Mid afternoon cocktails, a Corpse Reviver #2 & a Negroni were well made, quickly delivered and tasty as hell. The perfect questions on preference of gin for the negroni and 24 for the CR2 were unexpected but welcome discoveries.  The staff are attentive and friendly, and after tasting the pear, ginger and chili syrup from the team next door, Racket will be getting a visit on my next trip back home.

Perfect for an afternoon with friends and the massive outdoor fireplace means it would be a good hit for winterly conditions as well. Wine also looked great.

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Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Hugo’s Bar Pizza

Mojito - Photo by Foraggio Photo http://www.flickr.com/photos/foraggio/

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.

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Bar, Cocktail, Sydney

Low 302

low-302-11

This cosy little gem hides out amongst the Gaslight and the back alley’s of little Oxford. An expected find on my nightly walk home and a talked about venue by all the people who’ve told me they’re in the know…

Low 302 is quite close to the cross of Oxford and Crown, on the Surry Hills side, evidenced by the clientele and their clinging black jeans. A smart, small space with a bar inside, six or so tables  and a piano to sit around, four tables out the front, one of which that will take 6-8 of your closest friends with ease.

The list is good, and the bottles behind the bar speak of a venue that is trying for something special. I kicked off proceedings with a Tequila Manhattan, Herradura and sweet vermouth, garnished with a delightful port soaked cherry. Smoky, dusty, rich all poured up into an elegant glass.

My crew turns up and we are seated outside, the smart design of the terrace makes the most of being outside, while keeping you out of the busy Crown St Friday night menagerie. Table service is provided, but for a venue with so few tables, it seems to take a while to get drinks back outside to us. I follow up with a Negroni, with almost everyone else hitting the Pimms and Ginger Ale, which comes looking a bit sad and missing the cornucopia of fruit and leaves that it will, at best, be festooned with. The Negroni is as it should be, perfectly diluted and marvelous; equal parts gin, vermouth, campari and effort.

Dinner plans interrupted further investigation of the list, but I can say without hesitation that I’ll be back.

302 Crown St, Darlinghurst
Drop them an email at info@low302.com.au or give them a bell on (02) 9368 1548

Google Maps here.

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Bar, Restaurant, Sydney

Gazebo

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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Cocktail

Friday Fix: Negroni Madness

Picture 3This is one of those drinks you either love or you hate. I can’t remember if I loved them from the start, scrunched my face up like I’d been sucking lemons or if I just toughed it out to impress my bartender friends and my Italian coupled business partner. A Negroni has a soul, I can put it in no simpler terms than that. It’s scent is as powerful as it’s kick and the taste is one that takes some getting used to. It is one of the truly great cocktails, and as such, it comes with a history, or a few different versions of them.

The History(s) of the Negroni Cocktail.

  1. The Drink was invented by a man named General Pascal Olivier Count de Negroni. He was a French soldier who fought under Napoleon in the Franco Prussian war of 1870. We was obviously as good at fighting as he was at mixing drinks, picking up a Commander of the Imperial Legion of Honour for his trouble. This version of history is light on details outside of the Comtes military success.
  2. The drink was invented in 1920 at Bar Casioni in Florence. The Americano, vastly inferior drink of equal parts Sweet Vermouth and Campari and soda water, had become popular in the wake of the American late entry to the First World War. Count Camillo Negroni was a regular at the bar and asked for his to made with Gin instead of sparkling water. Unsurprisingly, the drink took off and people visiting the bar started to ask for their Americanos “the Negroni way”
  3. My Favourite history etwines the glamour (for some) of occupied Paris during the Second World War. While officers of the OSS slipped into highbrow parties held by the occupied aristocracy and rubbed shoulders with jackbooted Germans and the likes of Coco Chanel, the bars of Paris were hotbeds of espionage. The American and British were being fed intelligence by an Italian count who went by the name of Negroni. His signature drink was equal parts Gin, Camapri and Sweet Vermouth. Hemingway, who was in town for at least part of the time, was inspired to create the Boulevardier (below) Negroni’s bourbon cousin. This story probably has the least chance of being true, partyly because the Hemingway’s drink hit print in 1927 in “Barflies and Cocktails,” by Harry McElhone. I don’t care really, a story with Nazi’s is always a little more compelling.

All this writing is making me thristy, so let’s get on to the method.

The Negroni

30 mls Gin, 30 mls Campari, 30 mls sweet vermouth. Stir in a rocks glass over ice, garnish with a fresh Orange slice.

I’d use a bigger gin with plenty of bite, say Plymouth or Beefeater, export strength is better if you have it. pay attentions to the measures, equal parts renders a very special drink. If you, like me, favour a more botanical gin like Tanqueray, South or Hendricks, up the Gin measure so the punch of Juniper is not lost.

One Negroni is almost never enough, and each one is better than the last, right until you fall off you seat. If you do decide that you need a variation to get you through the night, or just like experimenting, you could always try one of these.

 Negroni Sbagliato.

Sbagliato means ‘wrong’ in Italian. Substitute Spumante Sparkling wine for the Gin and you’ll find out why this is a wrong negroni.

Negroski.

A Russian Negroni. Substitute vodka for Gin. Kind of a more alcoholic Americano. Kind of pointless.

Cin-Cyn.

Substitutes Cynar, made from artichokes for Campari

Berlioni

As above, use Cynar instead of Campari, substitute Noilly Prat for the sweet vermouth. Change the ratios to 1 and a 1/2 Gin 1/2 Cynar 2/3 Noilly Prat. Maybe try this one early on, it’s a bit hard to remember.

Agavoni

Substitute a decent 100% agave tequila for the gin. My favourite outside of the original. Adorn with grapefruit, preferably ruby red.

Unusual Negroni.

Hendricks Gin, Lillet Blanc & Aperol.

Boulevardier.

Substitute bourbon for the gin. Maybe add a little more bourbon than the others.

Original Negroni.

Use Punt E Mes as the vermouth.

Others.

You can change the brand of gin, the brand of bitter aperitif and the brand of vermouth to create many, many variations. If you’ve stumbled on a gem, or found one that really works, i’d love to read it in the comments.

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