Sunday, December 12, 2010

Pocket Bar

13 Burton St, Darlinghurst

Let’s be honest, we’re slack tarts and we haven’t been keeping abreast of our drinking agenda. Frankly, we’ve been a bit slack keeping a-drink of our breasting agenda, too, but that’s not really information for here. What with trips to the Middle East, insane work and social schedules and basking in the novelty of drinking without critiquing every element, we lost sight of game. Eyes on the prize girls, rookie mistake! So we’re back and we’re happy to be here. Thanks for having us. If you need to be reminded of the aforementioned agenda, check it here. If you need to be reminded of the reason the internet is a scary and amazing place, an example is waiting for you here. Apologies in advance.

SWINGIN’ LIKE A GATE First stop back on the 52 Pickup train was Pocket Bar in Darlinghurst, with our friends and imbibing compadres Babs, Butters, Court and Mark, and what a stop it was. One of us had been there a number of times before (hint: martinis were consumed and swear-words were used), but for the other it was a spankin’ new experience. Pocket is a wee little place (that has its own little wee place, but more of that later) recognizable by its charmingly weathered, swirly metal gate at one end. We’re just going to put it out there: we love a gate. They’re like doors with holes in them.
The decor is what we’d describe as “grunge chic” – graffiti-esque Pop art splashed all over the walls, dark lounges your grandma could crochet comfortably in, a changing gallery of photographs, exposed industrial vents and a bit of nerdy science paraphernalia thrown in for good measure.
They also have lightbulbs.
 We were instantly comfortable, huddled luxuriously on our lounges around our table at the rear end of the bar, surrounded by clusters of other mismatched, ornate furniture which thin out at the front of the room to make way for higher, stooled ledges and a clutch of seats at the bar. Lorin looked particularly relaxed (and uncharacteristically imposing) on her throne, whereas I was afforded a boys-eye view of a big pair of black and white boobs.

Like a queen with a boob-halo, is Lorin.

In fact, a good way to direct someone to this place would be to say “walk down Crown St from Oxford until you see a bunch of relaxed people drinking – if there’s boobs on the wall, you’re in the right place”. This might only be a problem if the person kept walking until William St, where I imagine wall-boobs are a little more commonplace.

YOUR SERVE, BATMAN. The mix of highbrow furniture and lowbrow decoration was pleasingly echoed in the service we received – casual, but attentive and top-notch. Pocket offers the lovely surprise of table service. An awesome trend that we are discovering on our little alcoholic odyssey is that cool and casual does not mean that service will be compromised. Our waitress, christened Faye but referred to on our bar bill as Batman, (hello, awesome) may be our new best friend. Sitting down, offering water, chatting with us and actually listening to what we wanted to drink, this woman was good people. The fact that the onesie playsuit she was wearing turned out in conversation to be just one of a large internationally-amassed collection didn’t hurt, neither – EVERYBODY LOVES A ONESIE. They’re like two pieces of clothing, but not. Genius.
Batman's service is so fast she's a blur. Nothing to do with photography skills. Cough.
Even when Batman twigged that we were writing a bar review (subtlety not being our strong point ever), she was entirely cool about it, and suggested drinks we should try to get a good idea of the bar’s strengths. She also asked us to ignore the spelling errors in the menu (which is being re-printed, apparently), which is a bit like asking Justin Bieber to not be a flicky-haired prat, but no harm done. Another staff member came over and offered us a take-home version of the otherwise leather-clad menu. Take-home representations of booze and boobs? Win. Score. Bonus. The drink menu was varied and top-notch, containing classics, slightly twisted classics, and some intriguing originals. There are a number of martini varieties like watermelon, rose petal and espresso, and more intriguing concoctions like the raspberry mojito or the Aperol sour. House spirits are a cut above the average, too – a fact proudly announced and rapidly consumed. With the quality of alcohol behind the bar, we think you’d have to be a blind amputee not to hit gold with that collection. And keep your guide dog away from the straw.
Food is also available at Pocket, and they’re best known for their crepes (amongst other smaller snacky things and good-value cheese platters), but we were there to drink. File that fact under ‘Surprises Tantamount To Finding Out Ricky Martin Is Gay’.

"What will it be, ladies?" Ricky Martin: "No thanks". 
PEOPLE AND PEE-HOLES Clientele was a relaxing mix of mild hipsters, a handful of unexpected suits, after-work locals and one midget. There was a refreshing absence of bullshit or pompous pretence, as everyone just seemed to be concentrating on putting lovely things into their mouths and pushing pleasant conversation out of them. The bar filled up quickly, as is the way with Sydney’s recent flourish of smaller, more intimate venues, but happily there were enough toilets to cater for everyone. We’ll happily queue for tickets to see James Franco’s bottom, but not to hover our own over the porcelain facilities. The loos are unisex, and clustered around a curtained-off area, each cubicle being equipped with its own mirror and hand-basin, which we spastically love. The ability to complete one’s regular ablutions from start to finish in total privacy is a classy touch, lessened only marginally by the fact that one might have entered a cubicle in which the previous occupant has left the seat up. Unisex: 0. Checking you don’t have a bat in the cave without anyone seeing: 1.
Happily for you, I only took a shot of the ceiling in the toilets. You’re welcome.

Think yourself lucky I didn't turn the camera around.
BEAT ME DADDY, EIGHT TO THE BAR The music in Pocket was an eclectic mix, starting on the dubby side of life and moving swiftly and rapaciously through decades, skimming Hank Williams, Etta James, the Beach Boys, Kanye and Winehouse on its way past. We were impressed, because it was the clear aim of the music to not seem like it was trying to impress anyone. We were equally impressed with the fact that table numbers in this place are just playing cards on little stands. Cute much, unnecessary but deliciously quirky tiny detail?!

DRINKY DRINKY: LORIN When Batman asked what I would like and I said Vodka Dry, her immediate response was “with fresh lime, yeah?”. Tick. Although I didn’t get asked what kind of Vodka I would like, this bar does not stock crap produce so why ask? It was a good mix and the dry was ridiculously fresh... as fresh as soft drink can be I guess. I totally just rapped.

Yes you did, L-Dawg. Yes you did.
While the menu is awesome, I didn’t really know what I wanted for my second drink. I asked Batman if she had any suggestions and was met with the following questions: What types of alcohol do you like? Do you like it sweet or sour? Long or short?
She then thought for a while and came up with the El Diablo, a nice little mix of tequila, ginger beer, creme de cassis and half a lime. While quite strong on the tequila, it made me fuzzy and happy. It wasn’t on the menu, but the woman identified my needs and met them. I think that’s grounds for marriage.

I now pronounce you drink and wife.

DRINKY DRINKY: JO My standard gin and tonic was excellent – a good size, saliva-inducingly fresh, and with a generous slab of lime, squeezed like python’s prey.

Python, Jo. Not Cougar.

 My first cocktail was a Mr Pink, ordered because of its gin base, interesting mix of ingredients, and my enduring affection for Steve Buscemi. With a double shot of Tanqueray, pink grapefruit juice, rosemary syrup, OJ bitter, lime and sparkling water, it was very tall, very tart and very generous. At first it was a little fruit-punch cordial for my taste, but then it slapped me on the epiglottis and left a sharp ginny afterglow.

I followed up with my most prominent fixation, a dirty gin martini. This. Place. Rocks. A Martini. Deep, cold, hazy, and with the best-tasting fat piggy olives in a long time. Slurp.



Two of our companions were drinking wine, but Babs, in between taking some gorgeous photos for us (the ones we took ourselves are easy to pick – they’re the crap ones), ordered himself a 5 O’Clock Shadow, made of Hendricks gin, rose water, lemon juice and sugar syrup. Despite Court’s announcement that it “looked like a penis floating in cum” (please note that we’d already discussed ocular syphilis at this stage), it easily took the title of cocktail of the night. It was a game of two halves, full credit to the bar staff, but this was the winner on the day.

Thanks for making the penis comparison just a little more awkward, Babs.
While the coolness factor of the place can at times feel a bit forced, staff members named Batman and Catwoman put you at ease and make sure you’re looked after. Drinking here is like listening to an excellent symphony orchestra that has just one bassoon out of tune, but it’s a little gem of a pocket in the wall to which we will happily return.

We’re giving it three-and-three-quarter little playing cards on stands out of five.