My Manly excursion had left me a bit drained so for the first time I decided to have dinner come to me via Uber Eats from a Japanese spot only a couple of blocks away. Apparently the Travel Godz frowned upon this as I had my first truly subpar meal in Australia – so blah it’s not even worthy of a picture on here. Oh well, at least it was relatively cheap and did give me time/energy to rally for a Saturday night in the CBD.
I decided to check out a couple of highly regarded cocktail bars. First up was Employees Only, a Sydney outpost of the famous New York City speakeasy. I made my way down the steep staircase into the main room, which was full to the brim of people enjoying a night out. I made my way to the bar where the very friendly bartender explained they were no longer taking drink orders because the burlesque show was about to start. Well alrighty then.
Burlesque shows for me can be very hit or miss but this was an excellent show. The dancer really knew what she was doing and the staff all played along, including throwing a ton of cocktail napkins in the air during various points of the show. The audience ate it up and everyone was having a great time. After it was over, I was motioned over to finally order my drink. I chose one of the staples of the NYC bar, FRAISE SAUVAGE – Beefeater Gin shaken with Wild Strawberries, Tahitian Vanilla & Fresh Lemon, Topped with Sparkling Wine. Served in a Tulip. It was very nice and refreshing drink. I was concerned the vanilla would make it too sweet but it was nicely balanced with the more acidic elements.
The DJ was playing all of the party hits. I admit it was fun to hear “Livin La Vida Loca” again for the first time in eons. Still, after about an hour or so, I had my fill and made my way back up the stairs to continue walking down George St, which was now filled with the cacophonous sounds of various music coming from the bars and the revelers wandering around them.
My next stop had been rated a top bar in Sydney for years, Grain at the Four Seasons Hotel. Based on what I had read about it, I was surprised to find a much more party-like atmosphere, with the bartenders getting into the fun very much like those at Employees Only. Thankfully, the music was much better, with the DJ playing some great classic disco and early house tracks. I took at seat at the end of the bar and ended up selecting Hunter Gatherer – Kangaroo Mescal, Laphoiag 10 YO, Port, Peated Barley Port and Blackcurrant. This was one complex drink – definitely a sipper.
As I enjoyed my drink, I stuck up a conversation with my seat mate who was American but had recently relocated to Sydney. He was now in IT but years ago had started out as a researcher on Saturday Night Live during the early 90s. Being a total nerd of the show, I was fascinated about his time there – Phil Hartman was the nice cast member, and nothing was more stressful than when Lorne made changes after dress rehearsal. He had stayed in the hotel many times and knew everyone on the staff at the bar although he didn’t drink alcohol. The bartender, seeing that I was now friends with their regular, gave me taster of a new margarita recipe he was working on, which was quite nice.
Soon it was closing time so I said my goodbyes and started the walk back up George St. The street was still teeming with people at the witching hour. I briefly considered one more round, but it had been a very long day so I decided instead to go back to my room.
It now being Sunday I had a hankering for some eggs Benedict (known here as Bennie) I had been told that a nearby stop, Cafe Alma, had really good Bennies, which sounded great to me. The clouds from the previous days were going and now the sky was a brilliant blue. The downside of that though is the sun was much more intense, so much so that I decided to minimize my exposure by taking the tram to at least the majority of my walk to the restaurant. I exited Town Hall and was grateful the remainder of my path was shaded.
The Bennie was excellent – perfectly poached eggs, a generous heaping of Tasmanian smoked salmon and a “spicy” Hollandaise (which wasn’t really spicy) with an interesting addition of sliced pickles, which I mostly set aside although did have a couple of bites with them in the mix.
After finishing, I noticed that the restaurant faced out towards a park so I made my way in that direction. To the side of the park was a series of casual restaurants and food stands which I strolled through noting several spots I definitely would have checked out if I was a local. The park, given it being a sunny Sunday, was not surprisingly full of kids enjoying some truly impressive play equipment that encircled the park.
Having previously hit one of side of Darling Harbour, this time I headed towards the other end, which gave me some new perspectives. One thing that had caught my eye on the other end of the harbor was the Maritime Museum with some impressive ships outside of it.
I didn’t really want to go through the entire museum so I made due walking along the deck. The submarine, and of course, the battleship were the main showstoppers but the whole layout was very impressive.
To cross back to the other side, I made a short trek uphill to the Pyrmont Bridge, which was a great way to take even more picturesque harbor views. I could feel myself baking in the sun so I retreated to the relatively shady York St, which was one of the main routes to my hotel but I hadn’t been on this end of it previously.
Knowing how hot it was going to be tomorrow and unsure how comfortable it will be to dine al-fresco, I decided to do that tonight, at sunset but first wanted to check out a nearby bar, Rekodo, for a pre meal cocktail. With the weather now pretty much perfect, I made the trek down the hill back to the Bangaroo section of Darling Harbour.
Part of a three section venue called Bangaroo House, Rekodo was on the second floor. Recently rebranded as a Japanese influenced bar/restaurant, it also featured DJs playing vinyl only. It was dusk when I sat down at the long bar and ordered one of their specialty cocktails – The Perfect Pair – Nashi pear infused Barcardi Oro, Shichida Saga sake, pineapple, sage – delicious and refreshing.
I enjoyed my drink and chat with the bartender who enjoyed showing me the ingredients to his various concoctions. The 2 DJs traded off between soul/funk with some Italo disco thrown in here and there. They weren’t exactly the best mixers but solid track selection. Soon, it was time to head nearby to the restaurant – Jordon’s Seafood.
I had passed by Jordon’s Seafood a couple of times in my various treks and knew I wanted to dine outside so made a reservation to ensure that. It was a good thing too as there were only a couple of tables left.
I had been told to get the fish pie and in reading the description – Prawns, scallops, hake in a prawn bisque bechamel with black truffle and salmon roe – this seemed like a no brainer. I asked my server which of the Australian chardonnays he preferred and without hesitation he (oddly enough) said the cheapest option. Sold. The chardonnay wasn’t too bad but soon after the fish pie arrived, it seemed like a good pairing. The fish pie was pipping hot and when I dug inside, it was full of chunks of seafood. The star though was the sauce, deep and rich of prawn flavor, it was one of the best singe dishes I had so far during my trip.
After dinner, I briefly considered getting some gelato from the place I had passed by several times with normally a long line. There was no line now, but I was beyond full. I didn’t really feel like schlepping up that steep hill and noticed that there was an entrance to the Wyndard station, which is close to the hotel. I walked through a series of high tech tunnels and emerged only a couple of blocks away. I made a mental note of that in case I needed to use it again with the oppressive heat coming tomorrow. It would be my last full day/night of the trip but I was going to tread lightly given the weather. The homestretch was in sight.
FRAISE SAUVAGE – Beefeater Gin shaken with Wild Strawberries, Tahitian Vanilla & Fresh Lemon, Topped with Sparkling Wine – this sounds so good!