Friday, October 28, 2011


One of my all time favourite bars has to be Grandma's. Ever since my first visit, I've been telling anyone who'd listen that it is one of the best small bars in town. And guess what? They have just won Time Out Sydney's Best Small Bar Award. See, I told you so! The best small bar not just by my vote but many others too. So in honour of their win I'm going to give you my 2 cents here.

People say you never forget your first love, I think that applies to small bars too. Grandma's is the first small bar I've ever set my foot in and it was love at first sight. I'd rave about it to others to the point where one of my friends asked me if I was getting paid to promote them. Self described as retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamour, Grandma's needs no introduction to those who favour a drink in a cosy, unassuming place.

Finding the bar may be a bit tricky if you don't know what you are looking for. I almost missed the door on my first visit and some of my friends wandered up and down the street a few times before they could locate it. But fret not, the entrance nowadays is often given away by the crowd lining up on the footpath waiting to get in.

Once inside you'll be greeted by a massive deer head mounted on the wall, followed by vintage pictures hanging above mismatching retro furniture dotted around the place. There is even a rocking chair, just like the one you'd expect to find inside your grandma's house. To secure one of the much coveted seats, make sure you get in early, otherwise you'll need to be very quick on your feet, no seat is ever vacant for long on a busy night.

Grandma's is a cocktail bar, but there is also a selection of wine and beer on offer. If you are feeling adventurous or simply can't decide what you want from the seemingly endless cocktails listed, consider kicking your night off with the secret daily punch, as the name suggests, it changes daily.

For something a bit different, try the Pink Pepper Martini, it is one of my favourite cocktails there, who would've thought pepper and strawberries would taste so delicious together?

Want to see your drink being lit on fire? Then you must order an Ultimate Mai Tai, watching it being made is almost as fun as drinking it!

Or if you are after a strong drink, as the menu puts it, a drink for a serious drinker, get yourself a Nuclear Daiquiri and get nuked!

When you spot grandma's knitting basket, challenge yourself and knit a few lines, that way you'll always be a part of Grandma's. Do I look like I knew what I was doing or what?!

Whether you stumbled upon Grandma's by chance or made it your mission to find it, this is one place you'll want to keep on coming back to. You won't find a more friendly bunch than James and Warren and all the grandkids behind the bar, and you'll get spoiled rotten each and every time you visit. With their newly extended hours, you can now chill with your friends till 1am on Fridays and Saturdays. Trust me, you'll be thankful for that extra hour, it means you can sneak in yet another delicious cocktail.

There is really no place like home, except grandma's.

Grandma's: Basement 275 Clarence Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Grandma's Bar on Urbanspoon

Monday, October 24, 2011

Raw Bar

If I didn't know better, I would have never guessed it's a Monday night when I walked into Raw Bar tonight.  This cosy yet sleek looking sushi bar was completely full, we were lucky to get a table quickly as a couple just finished their meal when we got there. 

Situated just off Campbell Parade towards North Bondi Beach and away from the noise of the main road, Raw Bar is the ideal place to relax and satisfy your sushi cravings after spending the afternoon at the beach, or in my case, watching one of my friends jumping in the ocean for a surf after work.   

We started with a generous serving of Edamame, served warm and topped with maldon sea salt; followed with Salmon inside-out roll (avocado, mayonnaise, fish roe) and assorted sashimi, both dish came with fresh wasabi and pickled ginger. From the hot food menu, we chose the Beef Negi Maki (shallots wrapped in finely sliced beef w/ teriyaki sauce & sesame seed), it may not be the best I've had, but still enjoyable. There is also a special menu on offer tonight, we opted for the Pork Belly which was done to perfection. Head chef Shintaro Honda and his team definitely know how to make some delicious dishes. While my friend went for Asahi, my drink of choice for the night is the Bloody Sake (tomato juice, worcestershire, lemon and a hint of Japanese chilli spice), a smooth sake take on the traditional Bloody Mary.

Awarded the Best Sushi Bar three years running by Restaurant and Caterer's Association, Raw Bar is no doubt a popular choice with the locals and visitors alike. 

Raw Bar: Corner Warners Ave & Wairoa Ave, Bondi Beach, NSW 2026  Raw Bar on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 23, 2011

The Dispensary

Ever fancied sipping cocktails while lounging comfortably on a daybed surrounded by spectacular views of the city, Opera House and the Harbour Bridge? Well, hope you visited the Dispensary before it disappeared.

The winner of a competition run by Drambuie The Premise, this pop-up bar gave drinking cocktails on Sydney Harbour a completely new meaning. We were literally having drinks on the harbour as the bar is built on a pontoon floating on the water near Mrs Macquarie's Chair. The only way in is by a water taxi departing from Man O War Steps. 

A modern take on the traditional apothecary, the bar dispenses Drambuie elixirs such as Black Donald: Drambuie, Reposado Tequila, Chambord, fresh lime juice, ginger beer; Honey Julep: Drambuie, pink grapefruit juice, lemon juice, mint leaves, Angostura Orange Bitters; and The Dispensary Signature Drink: Drambuie, lemongrass and ginger ice tea

For a quick bite, the Mini Burger Plate was impressive, I did however favour the chicken and turmeric burger over the wagyu beef and truffle burger. For an after dinner snack the English Cheese Platter with a selection of cured meats, figs, walnuts and lavash bread was a perfect fit.

As all good things must come to an end, after dispensing only a total of 9 nights over three weeks on the harbour, we must say goodbye to the bar that offered us such an unique experience.

The Dispensary: Off The Shore Of Mrs Macquaries Chair  Premise - 'the Dispensary' Pop Up Bar on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Pocket Bar

Need a cool place to grab a bite to eat, down a few drinks and perhaps read a book or magazine? Then check out Pocket Bar

Decked out with pop art graffiti on the walls, mismatching 70s furniture, a bar that doubles as a book case, and odd and ends on shelves, it's a hip joint without a hint of pretentiousness. 

I have not had the pleasure to check it out during the day (it's on my to-do list), but I've heard it's a rather nice place to stop for a coffee or catch up over brunch. At night, this place gets packed, especially on a Friday or Saturday night. If you want to put your claim to one of the comfy couches, then make sure you get there early. The friendly bar staff will do their best to find a seat for you, but you'll have to be patient as there tend to be more warm bodies than seats available on a busy night.

However, you will be disappointed if you come looking for traditional bar food, because what comes out of the kitchen is restaurant quality food, perfect for sharing too. We tried and were impressed with the skewers, they come in beef (grain-fed beef, piquillo peppers & smoked paprika with sour cream & mustard sauce) and chicken (breast fillet marinated in chilli, lime and soy with water chestnuts. Served with chilli aioli); and if you only have room for one dish then you must try the crispy pork belly (slow roasted pork belly with creamed parsnip, peas and fine herbs), it had us licking our lips!

I've spent a long time looking for a good late night dessert place and I'm happy to report that I've found it in Pocket Bar. The sweet crepes on offer are the best I've had in a long time. With a variety of savoury and sweet fillings, you'll bound to find one that tickles your fancy. My absolute favourite crepe is number 9 on the menu - Nutella, poached strawberries & cream with crunchy meringue. It is simply divine! 

Of course, what's a night out without trying a few new cocktails? Just to name a few:

Pocket Martini - 42 Below Vodka + Orange, Pineapple and Passionfruit juice+ Mint + Pomegranate 

Fiji Escape - 42Below Feijoa Vokda + Lime Juice + Gomme + Spiced Pineapple Foam

Delicious Sour (circa 1892) - Laird's Applejack + Peach Brandy + Lemon Juice + Gomme + Peach Bitters + Egg White

As different as they are in taste, they are equally delicious.

If you are there on a night Lydia is working, you'll be expertly looked after, not only does she know her drinks, she has this impossible to resist fun personality that will get you laughing all night long.

On a side note, if you arrive half an hour before closing time, don't expect to be let in, even if you already have friends inside the bar. Two of my friends found out the hard way.

Pocket Bar: 13 Burton Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010  Pocket on Urbanspoon

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Bizarre Bazaar

A friend of mine was in town this week and we arranged to meet up on Thursday night to catch up. I couldn't quite decide where to take her, there are so many interesting places I wanted to show her, but in the end I decided that we would head to Small Bar for a drink first. 

Who would have known this decision led to the discover of Bizarre Bazaar, a twilight fashion market, and my new favourite piece of jewellery, the Goddess ring from Lotus Mendes by Victoria Cheatham. 

I love discovering new places and those that I stumble upon are usually the best. So you can imagine how excited I was when I found this gem. 

Run by A Serious of Fortunate Events, Bizarre Bazaar brings fashion to Sydney laneways and showcases up-and-coming clothing and jewellery designers the city has to offer.

After our drink we wondered down the laneway, browsing from stall to stall, with music drifting from Small Bar's balcony, where a DJ was busy spinning groovy tunes for the evening, it was a late night shopping experience I'd love to repeat again and again. The atmosphere was relaxed, no bright lights like inside shopping centres, nor was there any pushy sales staff wanting you to try a new product; it was just us, stalls of beautiful clothing, gorgeous jewellery and their talented designers. 

Can't wait till the next event!

Bizarre Bazaar: Sussex Lane Erskine Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

xChange @ The Den

Until now I have never been to ivy while there is still daylight, turns out it has a completely different feel to it, I barely recognised the place and I like it! 

The whole place was elegant, relaxed and friendly like the way I remembered it from its earlier days. Scantily clad girls and loud mouthed boys are nowhere to been seen at the ivy bar, instead I found a much more sophisticated crowd chilling around the courtyard and the bar.

The Den plays host to the fortnightly Tuesday night forum called xChange at ivy, where women get together to discuss various topics; keynote presentations, panel discussions and interactive workshops are all part of the fun. To kick off the summer forums, tonight's topic was Great Sexpectations, with sexpert and author of 'What Men Want in bed' Bettina Arndt as the guest speaker.

As Bettina went on talking about things such as sex in a relationship, why sex matters so much to men and pornography, women in the room, myself included, often nodded in agreement. A few highlights from the night were Bettina's comments around men and sex:

Men will spend 20 minutes looking for a golf ball on the golf course but not the G spot...

To be able to last longer in bed, the point of no return is the moment men need to learn to control...

Erotica is like a feather and pornography is like a whole chicken, and men need whole chickens.... 

So what did I think of a night spent with a room full of women talking about sex, drinking Chandon and cocktails while snacking on delicious canap├ęs courtesy of Sailor’s Thai? 

Why didn't I join the forum earlier?! 

It's such a great place to go and relax after work, get talking and have a friendly debate. The forum is an excellent conversation starter and with the topics changing each week, you'll always have the chance to discover something new and interesting to talk about. It is a girls night out not to be missed! 

That being said, I did spy a few men in the crowd tonight, so by all means boys, if you feel up to it, come and join the conversation, we won't bite!

The Den: Level 2, ivy, 330 George Street, Sydney, NSW 2000

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Since I Left You

After stumbling across it a few weeks ago, accompanied by friends who wanted to relax with some wine after dinner, I paid Since I Left You a visit last night.

Tacked away in an old converted warehouse building on Kent Street, Since I Left You is another welcoming addition to the fast growing small bar scene in Sydney. 

Stepping into the bar via a cobble stoned carriageway, I felt like I was transported into a movie scene set in New York in the 1920s. The deco is sleek, minimalist with a back-lit wall behind the bar, long leather banquette with cushions down one side of the room, glass coffee tables and paintings on the wall.

The Good The Bad & The Berry
We arrived some time after 9pm and found the place buzzing with conversations, and of course standing room only inside. A glance of the menu revealed a reasonable list of wine, cocktails and beer; antipasto plates and small dishes are also on offer if you should feel peckish. Considering we had dinner and a large amount of beer at the Bavarian Bier Cafe a few streets away earlier in the evening, we skipped the food and opted for cocktails and a bottle of red.

At the end of the carriageway is a courtyard, used as a loading dock during the day, transformed into a hang out with tables and chairs at night with full view of Since I Left You written in white bold letters on a black wall. Adjacent to that wall is a building with fire-escape styled balconies that reminded me of New York once again.

We spent the night in the courtyard chatting away and before we knew it, midnight was closing in on us and last call for drinks was announced. As you may have already guessed it, the only complaint I have is the midnight closing hour, the norm for small bars.  

Since I Left You: 338 Kent Street, Sydney, NSW 2000  Since I Left You on Urbanspoon