Monday, January 14, 2013

Opera Bar

Lower Concourse, Sydney Opera House, Sydney

(Despite appearances, we sort of have a system. Check here to be enlightened/vaguely disappointed).

Barely distinguishable from the less popular ORER BAR

Sometimes we like to review bars that hardly anybody has heard of. At other times, we like to review bars that everybody who lives in Sydney, everybody who has ever visited Sydney, most guide dogs and at least four species of amoeba have been to. If you haven’t been, you're an idiot and you should go there just to see the damn thing

So we went to Opera Bar.

It'd have a nice view if that big white thing wasn't in the way.

Opera Bar, on the lower concourse that leads towards the Sydney Opera House (it’s still a mystery how they named the bar, but we’ll do some more research and get back to you), shows off Sydney at its best and most obvious. The map on the card shows that if you walk to the end of the bit of Sydney that looks like it's flipping you off, you're sweet.

And the horse you rode in on, Bennelong Point.

 You have the country's two most iconic landmarks right in front of you. Walk too far one way and you’ll drop into the harbour (or bump into a very gigantic passenger liner that’s moored in it, as was the case when we visited). There was one point when we actually plotted how to get onto said passenger liner to use their gigantic slippery slide and pool… then the liner started to move and there was no way our little legs were going to travel quick enough to make that dream a reality. One day we will sing “On A Boat Bitch” and it will be factual. That’s going to happen.

But for now we'll just settle for Jo's new fisheye lens, because WHEEEE! TECHNOLOGY

It is also a very good bar to visit if it’s forty-one frigging degrees in the shade, as was the case when we visited. That is scientifically hotter than Satan’s undescended testicle (we’ve already done our research on that one, and can’t thank the friendly people at Encyclopaedia Brittanica enough). 

This is what testicles look like. I'm told.

Third hottest day on record, fire warnings were at 'catastrophic' levels... what were we to do but drink? It would have been rude not to and let's be honest, we have no other way of dealing with things.It was HOT, we tell you. Or, as New Zealanders might pronounce it: “HOT”.

Must... rehydrate...

Tssssssssssssssss, etc.

SCENERY It’s pretty easy to find Opera Bar. Just point yourself towards the pointiest building you can see and then stop when you find yourself surrounded by drinking people. It’s important to stop, because it’s possible to wander straight through the place. Opera Bar is small on the inside, where the main bar is, and unbelievably, massively sprawling on the outside, where a supplementary outside bar is. 

Mmmmmm. Supplementary.

So it’s like a reverse tardis, or spilled intestines, or something else big on the outside and small on the inside that’s neither nerdy nor gross. With ample seating – Jo guessed for 300 to 500 people, Lorin guessed for “fuckin’ heaps”, you’ll easily find somewhere to sit, although possibly not under the hotly contested and coolly shady umbrellas.

Fuckin' heaps.

The furniture is incredibly well maintained for that of an outdoor crowded bar – it’s like the outdoor furniture you’d find on your rich friend’s third balcony – all lovely dense wood slats, relatively comfortable on the bottom, white umbrellas, stainless steel bars. It hasn't changed at all since it opened and there has been no need, it all works brilliantly. There’s even seating right up near the edge of the harbour, with the breeze and the Harbour Bridge in your face. When there, might we recommend a scenic shot with you in the foreground and some Sydney landmarks in the background. We find it works best if you have eighteen or nineteen separate attempts, all of them disturbing.


THE CHORUS This is a busy bar. As far as staff was concerned, we decided we’d have to dispense with our usual criteria – things like conversation, long, detailed booze discussions, drink suggestions and seats at the bar. These guys are busy, and these guys are fast. 

Thanks for telling us about the floral dress rule, YOU GUYS.

Almost unbelievably under the circumstances, these humans are also outrageously friendly, calm, helpful and efficient. And kind of hot, especially the outside glassies. HEEEEEY, GUUUUUYYYYS. Over here. Yep. The ones sweating through their maxi-dresses. What up.

Just relax and act natural, Jo.


The actual clientele is about as varied as you can get – sequins next to boardies, platform heels next to thongs, tourists next to a girl we decided we didn’t like with a stupid dress and a stupid fan and stupid melodramatic movements and who was stupid. That’s an average day, but the crowd can change quite drastically depending on the time you do go. After work crowds and any night on the weekend will obviously attract the douchery, but you can’t have a bar in the city, especially with this view, and not get that outcome. We believe Jo said it best when one particular patron inspired the line “I want to hate him enthusiastically with a knife". But hey, even Thor likes to drink here.

Pretty sure.

IT AIN’T OVER UNTIL THE SKINNY LADY SINGS This joint has live music pretty much every night, and the night we were there, it probably couldn’t have suited the environment better. A three piece combo (yes, combo) played grooves (yes, grooves) perfectly in tune with the Summery surroundings and lazy vibe (yes, vibe).  Of particular note were the jazz covers of Madonna and Michael Jackson, which were as smooth as the sails of the Opera House or a bald seagull. I think so, anyway. We weren’t, obviously, sober the whole time.


PROPS As far as drinks go, it is very easy to think a cold drink is the love of your life if you’re sitting outside in forty-one degree heat, and PS our new boyfriends taste like watermelon and pear. Cocktails are only available from the inside bar, with quite an efficient system – you order your cocktails, and then go stand near a sign that Lorin wants for her room, then the dedicated cocktail dude makes your drinks, freeing up the regular bar staff to take more orders.

Because her surname is Pickup. Right? The name of this blog just got forty percent more awesome in your miiiiind.

 The dude gets to work in a cock(tail) pit and turns the magical words on a page into reality. It's like a production line of awesome. Brusque and impersonal in almost any other, smaller bar, but perfect for this one, with its eight thousand hundred million people. The cocktail list is Summer-skewed and divine, dotted with mint, lime, strawberries, mango and watermelon. One of the cocktails is called a ‘Dirty Carpet Disco’. For clarity: this is one of the best cocktail names in drinky history. There are two jug options including a ‘Pimms Twist’, and the whole thing reads like the smell of cool rain on a hot alcoholic. The wine list has two or three choices per varietal at middlingly-affordable prices, and the food menu is quite clearly overpriced yet irritatingly almost irresistible. We resisted because we’re hardcore. Hardcore people keep telling other people they’re hardcore. Shut up.

Get on with it.

DRINKY DRINKY: LORIN Jo did the honours of ordering my first drink, and apparently wasn't asked what kind of vodka I would like, but that ridiculousness was followed up by asking if I would like lemon or lime. Well done on saving face, man... oh, and lime. I'll be honest, it was 40+ degrees outside, I could have sculled anything at this point, but it was glorious. It had a little more dry ginger ale than I would normally appreciate, but given the circumstances, it was perfect. I'm fairly certain that the ginger ale was Schweppes and there is something about this I stupidly enjoyed. Given the environment, they could have used anything, but it doesn't need to be some fancy, organic, imported soda... they went with the classic and it paid off. It was broken though, it didn't last very long at all.

Slurp noise.

For our cocktails, I went in armed with our selections. I wanted a High Tease (Hendricks gin, elderflower liqueur, rose & cucumber infusion, pink grapefruit juice) but when I requested it, my tender told me that they were out of Hendricks and so refused to make it with anything else. God damn woman, I could kiss you for your commitment to your art. She then suggested I try a Opera White Tea (Vodka, Poire William liqueur, Cointreau, Olmeca tequila, pear puree, apple juice) and given that she was so adamant about her ingredients, I trusted her and was pleasantly satisfied. It was along the same lines as what I wanted, it was dry, a bit tart, ridiculously refreshing, a bit fruity, but not really sweet at all. It kind of went down like water. A bonus was that fresh pear was cut and displayed like the opera house in my glass. 

Normal view

Put your fucking lenses away Jo view.

Shut up, I know. It was good, but it wasn't spectacular... not that a cocktail needs to be spectacular, but that really has never hurt anyone.

DRINKY DRINKY: JO My standard drink, a gin and tonic, was a truly acceptable house gin – I wasn’t asked my preference for any part of it except the garnish (lime, losers) but again, you let details slide when efficiency is key. The drink was a little small (as all drinks are), but spectacularly refreshing – under normal circumstances there’s a chance I might have thought there was too much tonic in it, but on a swelteringly hot day, it was like dipping my head in a bucket of effervescent cool while a man made of gin gently cupped one of my buttocks. Also I may have heatstroke. 
Or as the lady in this photo says: "hurrrr thruurrrk"

My cocktail might have been the world’s most perfect heatwave drink. Called a ‘Big Red Cooler’, it had Belvedere red, watermelon liqueur, fresh basil and lemonade, with a tiny side-note on the menu claiming that all sales of that particular drink supported the Global Fund for HIV/AIDS in Africa. I’m drinking fifteen of these bad boys, but only because charoddy. Charty. Churrritah. People with AIDS.

Let's just look at the pretty pink drink and forget I said that.

THE ORCHESTRA PITS Opera Bar doesn’t have its own toilet. There are toilets available, but they’re also available to the adjoining eateries and to every person who wants a squiz at the Opera House. In essence, it's pretty much like going to a stadium bathroom. It's not bad, it's just that there is no personality and you don't know how many people use it. Like.. y’know. Just eight or nine million people each day. It’s a wee little walk, during which time it might become an actual wee. It’s weird, is what it is.

A bit like The Shining in bathroom form.

OF SPECIAL NOTE: The first thing we noticed about Opera Bar (after the big iconic Australian thingummyjigs, whatevs) was that the larger tables have a shelf for your handbag. These are the eighteenth greatest invention in the universe, which is especially impressive when you consider that six of the preceding inventions are related to bacon, bacon products, and Ryan Gosling memes.

OF LESS SPECIAL NOTE: There was a guy there with a hula hoop. Lorin called him a douche. Jo argued that of all the bars to have a hula-hoop in, this was probably one of the most suitable. Lorin countered with “There is no bar you can hula hoop in and not be a douche. You’re not a lion tamer. You’re a douche”. And SCENE.

The Opera Bar is never going to be your local, but it’s pretty special on a summer’s day. It’s a bit upsetting they didn’t organise any fireworks off the bridge for us, but you can’t win them all. But we do want fireworks at some point. Sort it out.

We’re giving this baby three and a half handbag-shelves out of five.