Monday, May 24, 2010

The Different Drummer

185 Glebe Point Road, Glebe

If this is your first visit, click here to see what the hell it is we’re doing. If you want to see a picture of a Wookie playing baseball, click here. It’s okay. You can do both.

Speaking of Wookies (nice), remember how awesome the whole Star Wars thing was before Jar Jar Binks brought his special CGI brand of suckage to the franchise? A good bar is Star Wars. Bad service in a good bar is Jar Jar Binks.

All the colours of the rainbow. Well, two of them.

 SHE’S A BRICK. HOUSE. The Different Drummer is a red hot spunk of a bar to look at. Drunkenly walking the tightrope between quirky and contemporary, it bathes itself in red light, bare brick, turquoise padding and artsy burlap, excusing itself to burp out a few endearing accessories. Really, of all the wall-mounted, three-dimensional, mirror-tailed peacocks we’ve seen, this one would have to be in the top five.

You may make your cock joke...       NOW.

This decor is ON like Donkey Kong. No, seriously. They have Donkey Kong. See?


You have to get the thing up the... thing. To save the thi- yeah, we've never played this game.

They also have a spiral staircase. Spiral staircases are like speed for us. BECAUSE THEY FUCKING ROCK!!!
There's a lady who's sure all that glitters is gold. And she's buying a cocktail.

A two-level establishment, the Drummer (see how cool we are? We’re on a second-name basis with a bar) has three sections downstairs (front bar, mid-section tables and back covered courtyard), and an additional two rooms upstairs, good for functions and being able to see. Downstairs is so dark you can barely see your hand in front of your drink, but we likes our drinking to be done in the dark. We don’t know if this is a comment on our self esteem, but it just makes us feel more willing to get amongst it. The darkness isn’t a problem unless you’re trying to take notes, doing arts and crafts or defusing a landmine. Luckily, we were only doing one of those things. We might be good at drinking, but we suck at multi-tasking.

Lorin and Kage order by braille.

 The red light boxes that run the walls of the establishment help with the visibility. Whoever doesn’t think that red is an amazing colour is obviously colour blind. You know what else is sexy? An illuminated fish tank. This bar just wants me to get it on and I haven’t even had a drink yet.

Sorry, but Lorin and the lighting concept would like to be alone.

DIGGING YOU LIKE A... YOU KNOW Now, in most of our reviews, we mention the music in bars as a kind of aside, using words like ‘unobtrusive’ and ‘background’. Not so for the funky Drummer – music is a feature, and a perfectly matched and joyously executed one. When we arrive, Triple J’s Like A Version compilation is playing, and then the DJ starts. A tiny DJ booth (and ‘booth’ is generous – let’s say ‘bit’) in one corner was used to magnificent effect with original vinyl crackly motown, soul, funk and jazz. Cat knew what he was doing, man, and Linda Lyndell clearly approved. Hands up who doesn’t like Motown? Oh, you don't? While it’s been a pleasure to write for you, I think this relationship has run its course and it’s time for you to leave. Now. No, just go.

Now look what you've done. He's packing up his ace choons and going home.

THE KIDS ARE ALRIGHT Clientele is primarily late-twenties Glebesque – fedoras next to puffy sleeves next to floppy ankle boots next to questionably necessary spectacles and stovepipe scruff – an interestingly groovy throng who probably know the definition of ‘irony’.

THE TOILETS AIN'T HALF BAD, NEITHER The toilets are black-tiled and red-doored, with possibly the most consistently roomy cubicles in Sydney. You could do high-kicks in there while you were spending a penny, if you were better at multi-tasking than we are.

NOSH ME BABY, ONE MORE TIME One of the most endearing things about the Different Drummer, though, is the food. Oh, sweet unicorns in space, the food is good. It’s all non-traditional tapas style, and arrives quickly, ready to be crammed first onto your table and then into your mouth. We tried the pan-fried potatoes with garlic mayonnaise (crispo-delicious), duck wontons with hoi sin sauce (cruncho-spectacular - you should probably know that these are little gifts from heaven) trevally & chive croquettes with wasabi mayonnaise (hot, tasty and yes I’ll have a bath in that mayonnaise please, my god how I love thee) and rare chunks of eye fillet with a blue cheese and vodka sauce. Jesus Marvin Christ. If sex tasted like cheese and vodka, this would be the most pornographic dish ever. Wait a second – sex does taste like cheese and vodka! Does... doesn’t it?
Yes! Yes! A thousand times YES!
First things first: impressions of the two barmen on main drink-constructing duty. Very attractive gentlemen (although Bill Cosby is gonna be pissed when he realises one of his jumpers is missing). Both of them approached us to take our order, and we were a little excited to be served by them. This feeling didn’t last too long, as when we placed our order they just rolled with the punches, no chit chat, no nothin'. We’ve seen more warmth in a polar bear’s nipple. Fine, don’t make us think we have a chance, we don’t even care. FINE.

Theeeeen, one of them put the straws into our drinks with his fingers right over the mouth-holes. Yep. Anyway....

Have you ever seen Jo's impressed face? Yeah, this isn't it.

LORIN: Vodka and dry: Not a bad drink, they didn’t ask what kind of vodka I would like but what they used was quite nice. The dry was well balanced but on the weaker side of things. Squeezed lime, tick.

Cocktail: When we went to order our next drinks I decided to ask the bar tender if he had any suggestions, giving the man a chance to demonstrate his knowledge and skills while enabling him to talk himself up. The conversation went as follows: Him: What would you like? Me: What would you suggest? Him; (shrugged) what do you like? Me: Nothing too sweet, I don’t mind a bit... this is where I trailed off as the man then turned around to make our other drinks and did not listen. I thought maybe he would realise I had stopped talking and turn back around to ask me to continue, but no. At this point I turned to Jo and said “Well, I guess that conversation is over” and it was. WHAT?! What the F@#k is that about? He didn’t seem to be in a bad mood at all, that just seemed to be his style. He really just seemed like he had better people to serve than me. Ok, you’re attractive and can make a drink, this does not mean you have to be an arrogant twat.
These glasses are the warmest things in this photo.

Anyway, I ordered from the seasonal menu and got a Umbercue, which was muddled cucumber, Hendricks gin, lemon and tonic. I reluctantly tell you it was awesome. The bastard is arrogant, but he can make a cocktail. Not too sweet, ridiculously refreshing, and went down WAY too easily. This cocktail was so refreshing it felt like I should be out playing a game of tennis. If only you were allowed to smash the bar tender instead of the ball, I’d be set.
Pretty colours and an empty tip-tray.

JO: First up, my gin and tonic was really good – a barely perceptible sweet note pushing through cold, fresh sharpness with a wedge of lime. Serve that in a thick-walled, tiny glass crammed with ice, though, and you’ve got about three big sips’ worth. Drinks are very reasonably priced, but I still would’ve liked more for my money.
Must... get... more... up... straw.

The first cocktail I tried was from the regular cocktail menu - a Mexican Slipper – tequila, melon liqeur, lemon and pineapple juice. It was one of those cocktails that tastes non-alcoholic, so I could’ve knocked them back like water, pausing only to pluck the cherry garnish from its stem in that adorable way I do. Not too sweet or face-slappingly tart, the balance of flavours was just right. Speaking of face-slapping, our companion Kage’s Ginger & Apple cooler (vodka, ginger & apple syrup, apple juice, dry ginger ale) delivered a knockout punch with rings on. My last drink, and currently a dangerous habit, was a dirty gin martini, which was generous with everything including the olive brine, which isn’t always a good thing. Salty as hell, but otherwise fine.
Both cloudy and fine. And a little bit squiggly.

This bar does a lot of things well, and happy hour daily from 6 - 7:30pm, two for one cocktails is great value in anyone’s book. They don't just stick to the classics - they have a few sours and mexican delights to fill out the menu, and with the average price of a cocktail beng around $15, you can get quite a bit of value for yourself. All in all, decent drinks, gorgeous surroundings and incredible food were tarnished by snotty, couldn’t-give-a-shit service. When you feel like apologising to a barman for inconveniencing him by having the gall to ask for a drink, something’s wrong. We’d much prefer to go somewhere that made us feel welcome than go somewhere too cool for normal human interaction. With the simple addition of friendliness, the result would be vastly different. 

We should be scoring higher, but alas, we can only offer two and a half three dimensional wall peacocks out of five.

Pfffft. We said ‘cock’.

Sunday, May 16, 2010


Level 4, 252 George St Sydney

That sign says "hemmesphere". That pose says "finger pistols".

Ladies and gentlemen, we are both devastated and delighted to announce that we might never, ever drink tequila from a bottle with a little plastic sombrero on the lid again. Mind you, we also said that once about wearing pleather, and look how that turned out.

Whatever. Hands up who likes tequila?

CELEBRATE GOOD TIMES. COME ON For those of you trapped under some kind of weird, non-alcoholic rock, you have just missed World Cocktail Week. Forget World Music Week or even Womens Health Week, this is the type of thing that really rattles our ice cubes. It should come as no big surprise, then, that when Merivale (the company behind Hemmesphere, Ivy, and a bunch of other Sydney bars) announced they were going to celebrate World Cocktail week, we obviously had to get involved. Each Merivale venue hosted a ‘masterclass’ based on a different spirit on different days of the week. Hello, genius. While you might assume that we would do the vodka or gin masterclasses, given our usual standard drinks, we threw a curve ball and decided to attend the tequila masterclass at Hemmesphere, the next card in the pack.

It doesn't take much to make us happy. About 350mls should do it.

OOH, I LIKE WHAT YOU’VE DONE WITH THE PLACE Hemmesphere is one of our favourite bars in Sydney – we don’t know if it’s the dark decor, the mismatched lounges, the stunning and friendly staff, or the large amount of pillows that make us want to run and jump into them like we were a 27.. 38.. er, 5 year old... but every time we visit we have a great time.
If these pillows could talk... that would be really weird.

 Being both classy and relaxed, like Clive Owen, it made us feel special and cool when quite clearly we are normally only one of those things. When the lift doors open and you enter the foyer, there is a host waiting to greet you and seat you somewhere comfortable, then have a little chat with you and work out what kind of drink you would like. See? Special.
On normal nights, cocktails at Hemmesphere will generally set you back around $20, which unfortunately we’re noticing is the standard price of a cocktail these days. For the quality of venue though, that’s pretty good. There’s food available from Sushi E if you get peckish, the quality of which should knock your socks off. Lorin in particular goes a bit melty in the face of expertly crafted canapés, and has a message for the resident head chef: Dear Ura San, marry me. If you would like to take a younger wife, I’m sure there is a long line offering, but I will happily glass my way to the top.

The music is ambient yet funky, with a variety of well known DJs in the Sydney scene on rotation. There is an awesome little courtyard, which on a warm night is unbelievable. You kind of forget you’re on the fourth floor of a building until you go out and see the lights and stars. The toilets are dark, some might say a little too dark, especially if you would like to check your make-up, but the decor and lighting do match the rest of the venue. My god, they’re the nicest smelling bathrooms we’ve been in, though.

WHAT? YOU’RE DOING THE WHAT NOW? A special area had been set up for the class, with tiny tables laden with tasting glasses (five each), a main table groaning under bottles of tequila and cocktail-making equipment, and a projector and screen for educational purposes. We don’t know if you’ve realised by now, but we take our drinking pretty seriously, and this set up just about gave us an unnatural physical response. For our entire high school and university careers, we couldn’t understand why all classrooms didn’t look like this.
Let me play you a tune.

This is how it went down:

Class hosts:

1. Sebastien, Hemmesphere’s incredibly polite and attentive bar manager. You haven’t lived until you’ve heard Spanish words pronounced with a French accent. Dude nearly turned himself inside out.

2. Shae, a ‘tequila specialist’ and hornbag. Officially, he represented Herradura, the tequila sponsor. Unofficially, he represented a smile and a wink in our pants. In fact, one of the only truly serious conversations we had all night was a debate regarding the fabric of Shae’s trousers. Conclusion: probably not leather, but really quite, quite shiny.

Teachy Teachy. Shae fired up the projector and taught us everything we ever wanted to know about tequila. We’re going to let you in on a secret: the more you pay, the better tequila is – you can use the same principle when choosing sourdough bread or hookers. Honest. And you know what? It’s actually really nice. For example, we didn’t know that the older, darker stuff can taste like spiced chocolate or oaky vanilla, or that orange and cinnamon is a better deal than lemon and salt. Or that the phrase “I don’t like tequila, is there any wine?” makes us want to poke forks in the face of whoever utters it. Or that by projector-light, Shae’s buttocks look exactly like two ripe... sorry, FOCUS. Focus.
We didn't get a close-up, because we don't like to share.
Cocktails. We were given three cocktails each during the class, a practice that we have no objection to whatsoever.

1. El Diablo – tequila, crème de cassis, lime juice, sugar syrup & ginger ale with a lime wedge garnish. Quite sweet, with a subtle tequila flavour. Not bad, but nothing to really write home about. Because of course we always write home about drinking. Dear mum, pissed again.

2. Margarita – tequila, Cointreau, lime juice & sugar syrup with a salted rim. Obviously a classic, but this was the best bloody margy we’ve had, ever. They got that shit sorted, although being a high class booze joint, you would expect Hemmesphere to get it right. There was a suggestion that, to cater for those who don’t enjoy the salted rim, only half of the rim should be salted. To that, we say that if you don’t like the cheek-puckering slap of a salted margy rim, you should perhaps go see a doctor about the puny size of your testicles.


 Speaking of body parts, we’ve heard before that champagne saucers were originally modelled on Marie Antoinette’s breast, but we were newly informed that a margarita glass is modelled on Margarita’s boob. Testing that theory, we also learned that Margarita might need to invest in a better bra.
We like to express ourselves.

3. El Chino – tequila, port, sangrita mix (in this case grapefruit juice, agave syrup, coriander and chilli) & lemon juice with a grapefruit zest garnish. We’re pretty sure this was delicious, although the phrase “Man, high-quality smashed is so good” was uttered by Jo at this point, so there really could’ve been anything in the glass. Except stem strength.

I been eating me spinach. A gig-gig-gig-gig-gig.

Canapes. Throughout the class we were given some canapes which were prepared by Sushi E, a restaurant which shares the floor with Hemmesphere. Prepared by head chef Ura, these were just little bits of heaven sent to us – pawpaw with blue cheese and salmon roe, kingfish sashimi with Thai dressing, and a fat, apostrophe-shaped garlic prawn on a crispy wonton.
The sensation you're currently experiencing is called "saliva".

 Delicious as they were, there were only three of them. Mental note Merivale, when pouring copious amounts of tequila into your guests, a bit more food might be an idea. Barely any time had passed before the upper-case comment “HELLO I’M DRUNK” appeared in our notes for the class. So, you know, win.

Demonstration In addition to the full cocktails we were served, we were shown how to make a couple more and given tastes using the time-honoured and dainty straw-sampling technique, demonstrated here by your humble reviewers.
Step 1.

Steps 3 through 7. Repeat until glass is empty.

 By far our favourite was Hemmesphere's signature cocktail, the Bling Bling, and might we just say angels sang and played kazoo. This is not only a great tequila cocktail, this is one of the best cocktails. Ever. Muddled chunks of pineapple and basil leaves are mixed with tequila, apple liqueur, apple juice and lime juice. Balancing the sweet fruits with basil is a stroke of genius, and seriously, if we could have a glass a day of that apple goodness it may not keep the doctor away, but we’d gladly go to hospital for it. Bugger tasting tiny bits in a straw – we wanted ten in an intravenous drip.

Blind tasting. After learning about the different types of tequila and their ageing and distilling processes, we were invited to taste the five generous samples in front of us and take a guess at their particular variety.
Snorting is kind of frowned upon, though.

One of the tequilas was a $500-a-bottle ‘Seleccion Suprema’, which our mate Knighty described as ‘dessert’ – it was the colour of syrupy caramel and tasted like warmly spiced magnificent with a hot damn aftertaste. Jo scored two out of five, probably due to the fact that it’s hard to be discerning when you have two fists full of tequila. Lorin scored four out of five, only because she couldn’t remember what the fifth type was called. If we’d known in school that all you had to do to ace tests was to include alcohol, perhaps our educational results would’ve been a little different. Our self-professed tequila expert buddy Gibbo claimed five out of five, and won a free bottle of the lovely stuff. ‘Pig in mud’ is a term that comes to mind. We don’t know if the bottle even made it home.
It's not the photo that's blurry. You're just off your tits on tequila.

 Also, another tip (we like to educate and enlighten here at 52 Pickup): apparently to cleanse your palate, you should take a sip of water and then smell your own skin. Luckily, our skin smells like rose petals, sunshine and human flesh.

Also a little bit like shame.

Goodie bags. Yeah. We got goodie bags. That’s like topping off a foot massage from Jason Statham with a tongue-pash from the Spanish soccer team. But, y’know – less hairy or likely to cry.
It looks a lot bigger when Lorin holds it.

Despite not having our usual drinks, we’re beyond pleased with getting to experience the cocktails we did. Sorry, I’ve got a call coming through. Hello? Oh, hi Bling Bling. What’s that? You think we should start seeing each other on a regular basis? Well, it’s a bit sudden, but okay.

We’re giving Hemmesphere four boob-shaped glasses out of five.