Saturday, March 6, 2010

Eau De Vie (Kirketon Hotel)

229 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst

The next card out of the pack was The Kirketon. One of us (Jo) had been there a few years before, and the general, dimly remembered opinion was a resounding ‘meh’, but as we were in the area, we thought we should try it.

Lorin points out the silent 'E'. Thanks, Lorin.

To get to the bar, you need to heave through the heavy glass doors at the entry to the hotel, walk through a deserted foyer and cafe area, through another set of heavy doors, past the toilets and around a corner. Whistling the Get Smart theme tune would not be out of place at this point. You basically just follow the sound of voices until you reach Eau De Vie, a newly-opened speakeasy style bar right at the back. The bar on our card had been sold, bought, refurbished, restocked, and re-invented.

The result?

Oh. My. God.

If this isn’t our new favourite place to be on the planet, we don’t know what is. We know that it’s probably premature to say this is one of the best bars Sydney has to offer in only our second post, but it’s not like we haven’t been to bars before we started the deck. It’s not without very real, very adorable tears in our eyes that we say this might be the most magical place on earth.

NUTS, BOLTS, ALLEN KEYS Eau De Vie is a small dark room akin to a cigar lounge, if only such a thing existed in our country any more. Chesterfield lounges, dark wooden tables and stools, a grandfather clock, a fantastic tiffany lamp and two world globes for good measure and voyage-plotting. I know what you’re thinking, but I promise you - this only sounds like your grandpa’s house if your grandpa was the coolest goddamn alcoholic in history.

This is both the time and the place.

 With a full house and lots of laughter, this bar immediately made us feel welcome and thankful that such a place existed. We were expecting an older crowd, but it was surprisingly young for the style of the venue. The choice of music was odd and a little annoying to be honest, given our low tolerance for the electro-esque, but this settled down throughout the night to a comfortable, hip mumble.

THEM IN THE WAISTCOATS When you first enter, Barry the amicable Scot takes you to your seats - if at all possible, make those seats the ones right at the bar so you can watch. Alternatively, you could just paint your retinas with liquid awesome and shove angels up your nostrils for the same effect, but this is just kind of easier, y’know?
We immediately felt like guests, not customers, as Barry sat with us for a moment and chatted to us to see what kind of a night we wanted to have. When we ordered our standard drinks, he immediately asked if there was a particular vodka or gin that we would like, and looking at the heaving wall of alcohol there’s good reason for this question. There’s still just something about being asked what particular brand of spirit you want that makes you feel cared for – they’re either really trying to make your drink exactly how you like it, or they figure you’ll be flattered by this attention to your assumed alcoholism. Let’s just go right ahead and assume it’s the former.
Next, we were greeted by our barman, Calum, also a Scotsman. Coincidentally and without exagerration, he’s also pretty much the hottest thing on legs. I’ll refer to our notes at this point, which just state simply, in upper case: WANT TO EAT BARMAN ON TOAST. And frankly, if there was no toast I would neither mind nor notice. The other barkeeps in attendance, Phil and Elle, also scored highly on the aesthetic loveliness scale. See? We know their names. It’s that kind of place.

WHAT A TOOL Special mention has to be made regarding the tools of the trade in this joint. Cut crystal Royal Doulton glasses mingle with antique specialist glassware sourced worldwide. Mix that with a wide array of almost unnecessarily quirky and fantastical shakers, decanters, pipettes, bulbs and funnels and you have a whole lot of fascinating with the very real potential for leading towards a whole heap of drunk. Lorin’s succinct and clearly well-read description of the glassware was “scientific sh*t that looks old and classy”.

Martinis are awesome hypothesis: PROVEN.

Because of the cornucopia of accoutrement and our position right at the bar, we asked endless questions about everything we could see. THIS WAS A REALLY GOOD IDEA, as soon we were given mixing demonstrations and even tastes of many of the cocktails on offer. Hence, now we know that anything other than an ice-cold martini is a mortal sin, so Eau De Vie martinis come in a kind of bulbous test-tube embedded in another glass of ice. Calum then explained that the customer pours the hyper-chilled martini into their waiting glass at their own pace. F@#k. Off. Did we mention he was wearing a waistcoat? Let’s just put that all together and think about it for a while.

Don't mind me. Just holding your funnel.

DRINKY DRINKY: LORIN We immediately had a black serviette placed in front of each of us with glasses of water placed on them. Then the same for our standards. Simple attention to detail, but I love it. I’m happy to report that my vodka dry tasted and looked exactly as it should. Phew.
Note: Glasses of water untouched.

When we asked to see the menus, I was a little disappointed- not in the content, just the presentation. You are handed a black leather booklet, with beautiful gold font on the cover, then inside it looks like someone just typed up the text in Times New Roman in Word. Disappointing, but really, not a big thing to worry about. The menu however is really good, some classics, but also some quirks. My selection was a popcorn margarita.

This is the best movie I've ever seen.

Yeah, that’s right - there is salted popcorn on the rim of the glass. Awesome. This however, did not really live up to the expectations in my head. I thought it would be a lot saltier, which is just what I’m used to, but it was still a sensational margarita in the glass nonetheless.

Lorin: "There's popcorn in my mouth"
Jo: "Not all of it".
DRINKY DRINKY: JO Well hello, gin-and-tonic-exactly-as-it-should-be. I chose Tanqueray gin, primarily because it sounds so good with a Scottish accent. It was cool and well-mixed, with the kind of tang that gently slaps your tongue and then apologises to it. After noticing some bizarre glassware in the ‘fridge behind Calum and having him explain its use, my cocktail had to be the Hendricks Tea Party.

Q: Tea, vicar?
A: You're hot.

Four words, my friends: Teacup. On. A Stem. Filled with many more words, like cucumber, rose infused gin and fruit-infused black tea. It was orangey, warming, fresh, and, I’m afraid to say, since I kind of pride myself on being a smidge on the rock n’ roll side of life – delightful. It was delightful, OKAY?

My f*cking pinkie's out because I'm f*cking classy.

One shouldn't limit oneself just to the cocktail list, neither, as the staff are liver-shrivellingly knowledgeable and can make anything you can think of. Eau De Vie is the kind of bar where, if you asked for a dram of distilled essence of swan, they'd probably ask you which kind of swan. Black, of course! Only arseholes and groupies drink white swans.

FLUSHED WITH EXCITEMENT The toilets are definitely Kirketon-styled rather than Eau-De-Vie-styled, and are a glossy, contemporary, minimalistic shock to the system after the plush, endearingly cluttered bar environs. Nice, though, and from memory furnished with lovely cloth hand-towels and a flattering mirror. And by memory, I mean "memory".

We could seriously go on and on. We stayed for more drinks, tried a couple of beers, inhaled an elegant and delicious mezze plate, waited while Elle ran outside to see if the rain had stopped for us (frankly by this point the world had stopped for us), and discussed the possibility of living there forever.

This place blew our minds. The plan is to extend into another room and open a whiskey bar (with personalised lockers in case you don't finish your bottle in the one sitting), so it just gets better. When sorting out our bill we were given Moscow Mule gelato palate cleansers. I know. I know. Seriously, we don’t think we could invent a better gelato flavour, let alone fathom giving it to guests as they’re leaving to go drink at another establishment. They really just have thought of everything.
Sure, the torrential rain outside leaked through the roof and caused the lights to malfunction, but need we remind you: TEACUPS ON STEMS.

We’re giving it four and a half teacups on stems out of five.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Jimmy Liks

186-188 Victoria St, Potts Point
That's rain, not sweat. Oh okay, and maybe a bit of gin.

WELL, LOOKY HERE. Walking into Jimmy Liks out of a sodden sheet of rain, we were quite impressed. A long thin room, with minimalistic decor; dark lighting, a black counter with a little service area below, and wood-panelled walls. We’d even go so far as to call it Asia-Contemporary, except that would make us sound like the snottiest kind of provincial wanker. So we won’t.
We like things to be simple and confidently executed, so the scene was set for what we hoped would be an enjoyable drink.

Two drinks, please. Oh, and also: get stuffed.

THEM IN THE APRONS Being ladies of the single persuasion, we consider barmen of the aesthetically pleasing persuasion to be an enjoyable diversion, and good ol’ Jimmy did not let us down in this department. Bar staff were dressed in black pants with a black V-necked shirts, simple, hot, and acceptably clingy.
When we asked to see a menu, our waiter not only produced one, he also produced an Itty Bitty Book Light to help illuminate the menu. An Itty Bitty Book Light. Just like that. Swoop, slap, click, ta-dah! God forbid they’d turn up the ambient lighting and ruin the moody, surly darkness – just slap a booklight on the bar and be done with it. We’re not ashamed to say that the novelty of this did not wear off quickly, although the old couple drinking champagne next to us had to whip out the reading specs.

Now, it’s one thing for your staff to be hot, but we don’t think it’s too much to ask for a bit of flirting to be thrown in for good measure. Yes, as a bar tender you might feel like a cheap tip-whore, but if two girls come and sit at your bar and ask you what your specialty is, it’s bad business not to do your best to work it. Responding with the phrase “cuddling afterwards” isn’t necessary, but give us something. This is where Jimmy loses some points. Bar staff seemed like they had better places to be, or worse, better people to serve. They were polite, but any one who knows us will tell you, we hate polite. The service was as cool as the over-iced drinks. When we asked for suggestions for our second drinks, our barman (after whipping out his magnificent, tiny illumination again) just kind of pointed at a few cocktails and then left us alone.

BOOM CHIKA WOW WOW The music was jazzy, ambient and sort of just there, but most of the sound came from the restaurant that takes up the other half of the space. It probably seems a little obvious to call it “Bar Music”, but it was… sort of musicky and… and at a bar. Who are we, Glenn A Baker?

DON’T FORGET TO WASH YOUR HANDS The toilets, whilst clearly an admirable adaptation to the space available, were still a bit look-what-we’ve-done-to-Harry-Potter’s-cupboard-under-the-stairs chic. As a result, an apology had to be made to one of the other punters for a near-lesbian experience just trying to get to the sink. Cosy. Understatement.

DRINKY DRINKY: LORIN My standard drink is a vodka dry. For those of you who don’t know what dry ginger ale is (I’m hoping the readers of this blog would), it’s a brown sugary drink, not as dark in colour as coke and it tastes of ginger. My vodka and dry looked like what I imagine water from Kenya to be, only not as dark. Point being, it was almost clear and I couldn’t taste the ginger ale, or vodka for that matter. Too much ice in the drink watered it down, so it wasn’t a good start.
I'm partly happy, and partly frozen in this position.

As for the specialty, I wasn’t expecting big things after my standard was murdered, but I was trying to keep an open mind so I ordered a Pandanas Ginger Caipiroska. This, my friends, is AWESOME. It seriously tasted like I was eating Thai food, but not in an I’m-chewing-what-should-be-liquid kind of way, it was just a delight. Made with their own self-infused Pandanas vodka (massive points for this), palm sugar, lime and ginger, this is an amazing cocktail. For a bar attached to a Thai restaurant, it is a well designed drink and the menu follows suit. Eclectic with some classics, but with a twist. It’s just a shame they couldn’t get the simple drinks right.

DRINKY DRINKY: JO My standard gin & tonic was pretty good as far as big glasses full of ice go. As an alcoholic drink, though, it was a touch on the disappointing side – watery, with ice that actually cleared the top of the glass, reminding me of the Titanic. Unfortunately when I think of the Titanic, I think of Celine Dion, who is also kind of bland, watery and frigid-looking.
Look out to starboard, cap'n. Or is that port? I can never t... damn.

My cocktail, a Bangkok Iced Tea (lime, basil, mint, Noilly Prat & lemon ginger tea) was a massive improvement – it was as refreshing as… well, as a glass full of citrus, herbs, vermouth and iced tea. And ice. SO MUCH ICE.

With cocktails priced around $16/17, it was quite reasonable, but ultimately, Jimmy’s is what we like to refer to as a transit bar. It’s not the destination in itself, but it does very well as a waiting area for the restaurant, and as an advertisement for snug black trousers.

We’re giving it three itty bitty book lights.