Cyren Bar and Restaurant, Darling Habour

Let me start by saying that I had great expectations of this Darling Harbour white spectacle. When it first opened it was heaving (and it’s not a small place by any means). On top of that, there were lines of 20 or 30 deep waiting for a table out the front. However, when we visited on a Friday night, a touch over half a year later, the place showed no signs of its former demand – foreshadowing an unfortunate experience. 

Cyren has been lavishly renovated with beautiful colours of white and gold. You can sit outside near fiery heaters, or inside where stone art seems to be a running theme. We were seated inside, quite gratefully as it was a cold autumn’s night.

We discovered that there was only one waiter responsible for taking orders in our rather large section of the restaurant when we realised no one had come to offer us water or take our orders for at least twenty minutes after sitting. So we waved the waiter down, ordering our selections of seafood and steak. The waiter seem frazzled and was run off his feet – he might’ve done a better job if management had been thoughtful enough to roster more staff on a Friday night in a Darling Harbour location.

I ordered the barramundi and chips – costing me $38. I had to choose between salad and chips for that amount – I didn’t get them both. The barramundi was nice enough; when I got past the sticky rather than crunchy skin – a big disappointment for me. Even more disappointing was when I, as well as a friend, requested aioli to go with our chips and it never came, despite asking for its whereabouts from two different waiters (it was always ‘on its way’).

Adding to this, I had to ask for more water, rather than my glass being refilled as you would expect from a place that charged you $38 for what was basically fish and chips.  When the waiter asked how everything was towards the end of the night, our friend didn’t hide our unsatisfied moods – letting him know it was nothing short of terrible. When the manager came over and asked if we wanted free desserts to make up for it, we politely declined as no doubt, we’d have to wait for another half hour to receive them – if at all.

Price

Around $20 for entrees and $38 for mains

Service

They need more staff, and then perhaps the service would be standard rather than dismal.

My final verdict

Overall, it was a rather substandard experience and I won’t be hurrying back there anytime soon.

Cyren Restaurant and Bar on Urbanspoon

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The best ever Bloody Mary

I had heard stories of this legendary Bloody Mary, and at the time I wasn’t quite sure I believed them. “It’s the best Bloody Mary you’ll ever have”; “It’s like a whole meal”; “You’ll love this” they said. ‘The best ever Bloody Mary’ is certainly a tall call to make – but for me there is no doubt. Of course you’re more than welcome to prove me wrong, but hear me out first…

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Bloody Mary, $16.50

It’s served in a large brandy glass using a ‘secret’ Bloody Mary blend. The level of spiciness is at your discretion; just choose a number between 1 and 10 – 10 being the hottest. I like mine pretty spicy, so I chose an 8 and it was fan-bloody-mary-tastic. As well as fine spices and a shot and a half of vodka, it’s served with a layered skewer of stuffed baby pepper, pickled brussels sprout and boiled egg. You’ll also find cucumber, lime and lemon slices within this concoction.

The bartenders craft their Bloody Marys with love and care like that of a mother to her newborn child, and so it can take a bit of time. But it’s worth it.

You can indulge in what I would say is the best ever Bloody Mary at The Clock Hotel in Surry Hills.

Clock Hotel on Urbanspoon

The Wild Rover bar, Surry Hills

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75 Campbell Street, Surry Hills

thewildrover.com.au

From the makers of Grandma’s in Sydney’s CBD comes The Wild Rover – a new cocktail bar in trendy Surry Hills. I’m going to say upfront that I love this place – from the decor to the fabulous service, to the impressive cocktail list – this place is a winner and for me, one of the best bars in Sydney.

Firstly, it’s a little hard to find as there’s no signage at the front. In fact we walked right past it and I began to question Tom on whether he had the right address. In retracing our steps we found ourselves in front of a large green door – the largest door I’ve ever seen. Off the quiet street there is no indication that behind this door a whole other world awaits – full of old-world adornments, suspender-wearing bar tenders and beverages to make you merry.

As soon as we walked in we were warmly greeted by the bar staff – singing out to us as our eyes adjusted to the low lighting. The place is spacious with high ceilings and two levels. It shares its name with an old Irish pub song and is Irish themed, with rich rustic furnishings; from the dark timber tables and stools to the leather wall seating and copper bar tops. The exposed red brick walls are decorated with old black and white pictures and maps. Right above that large green door, an imposing metal statue of a man bearing arms looks down on you – almost as if he’s challenging you to leave. I assume this is our Wild Rover – and I didn’t want to disappoint him. Rich red curtains flanked either side of Mr Rover, adding to that old-world charm. Both the ground and top levels boast a jungle-inspired feature wall. This is perhaps emblematic of the mythical Wild Rover’s adventures before returning to his home town.

Drinks & cocktails

The cocktails are cleverly divided into light, medium and heavy, indicating their alcohol potency and taste. We watched in marvel as the bar tenders used beakers to craft their magic (remember those measuring jugs from high school science lab?). I chose the Root of the Earth from the medium list. Apparently, this is their ‘healthy choice’ cocktail and is a concoction of rum, beetroot-agave pinot and vanilla. I thought this was deliciously refreshing and it certainly did taste healthy! It had a strong beetroot flavour, so if you don’t like beetroot, stay away from this one. Next on my cocktail tasting pallet was the Red Snapper – a medium take on the Bloody Mary. This was amazing! The fresh pressed spiced tomato juice gave it a real hearty kick. Mixed with gin, it was my sort of Bloody Mary. Tom chose Gibbo on the Rocks from the heavy list – a mixture of gin and Tio Pepe served with a large block of hand-chipped ice and a pickle. This was brilliant – that pickle was a perfect match for the Tanqueray gin, adding to the drink’s tasty flavour.

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There’s also a decent selection of wines, which you can buy by the glass, half bottle or bottle for most. Beer and whisky-wise, you can choose from a sizable list of craft beers and distinguished whisky. Behind both bars is a towering shelf of spirits and tucked between the bottles are glowing candles as well as vintage finishings such as chalices.

Food

From what I saw this consisted of house made sausage rolls and oysters.

Price

Cocktails – $16-$17

Wine – around $10

Beer – around $8

Service

Outstanding – I would say 10 out of 10. Every single person was friendly, attentive and up for a chat.

My final verdict

I know I stated it upfront, but for good measure here it goes again: The Wild Rover is an exceptional Surry Hills cocktail bar and you won’t be disappointed with the drinks, atmosphere and service. I do believe this drinking hole will become one of my frequent haunts.

The Wild Rover on Urbanspoon

The Red Door – 65-67 Foveaux Street, Surry Hills NSW

 

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www.foveaux.com.au/reddoor.html

We decided to check out The Red Door after dinner on one of Sydney’s balmy autumn nights. It didn’t take us long to realize that this is one glamorous little place – one that reminded me very much of some of the bars I had the fortune of visiting when I was in New York. I absolutely loved the mysterious blood-red door that takes you through to an underground den oozing of class, chic and downright coolness.

Its limestone walls are decorated with black and white photos from the Prohibition – including that famous photo of well dressed men marching the streets with signs exclaiming ‘We want beer’. Dark red and brown designs, coupled with sheer curtains and low light glowing from intentionally crooked lampshades made it an intimate setting – perfect for a romantic rendezvous. The place seemed eerily quiet for a Saturday evening though. And whilst it was an after-dinner cocktail we were seeking, the night was still young at only 9.30pm.

The guys at the bar were welcoming and helpful; one even chaperoning me to the bathroom upstairs (and near the Foveaux restaurant situated directly above the bar). Besides a menu of wines, beers, spirits and some bar food, they also have a small blackboard of cocktail specials to choose from – I ordered a cherry whiskey sour off this. Tom ordered a dry gin martini (which wasn’t on either list, but they still make the classics as any good cocktail bar should). Whilst I didn’t quite enjoy my cocktail (it seemed like it was missing something to give it that extra pop), I did enjoy Tom’s. However, you can’t really stuff up a classic martini too much.

The Red Door is pricier than most, with cocktails around $17 and we were charged $24 for Tom’s martini. It’s still worth a visit though, especially if you’d like to impress.

The Red Door on Urbanspoon

Mojo Record Bar – 73 York Street, Sydney

www.mojorecordbar.com

We ventured into this basement bar on a Friday after work. At the bottom of the narrow stairway to the left is a funky little vinyl record store, and beyond that is what we came there for after a long and tiresome week – and the light at the end of the tunnel – the bar.

This small bar, or perhaps den is more fitting, has lots of attitude – and the bartenders were no exception to this rule. They’re outgoing and friendly with a quirky sense of humour and a dress code to match. The combination of amber lighting, rich mahogany fittings, vintage carpets and red back lighting gives off a red glow and a cosy feeling. The walls are an homage to music – covered with framed album covers hailing from different decades and genres.

You can choose to sit at a booth, table or at the bar – we chose the bar so we could be at the heart of the cocktail-making action. This however, may not have been such a smart choice. My friend had ice, cocktail-making gadgets and ingredients thrown at her (albeit accidently) from all directions. I was lucky enough to have the cash register right in front of me, saving me from this unnatural shower.  So sitting at the bar definitely got us amongst the action – quite literally. The bartenders were charmingly apologetic though and even bought us as a drink each to make up for it.

You should know that there’s no food at this bar. But as a nice little touch, I’m told you can take your drink into the record store while you have a browse.

With a relaxed, intimate, yet quirky vibe, it won’t be the last time I visit this watering hole. It’s a marvellous place to have that much needed drink after a wearisome day. It does get extremely busy on a Friday evening though. We walked in at around 5.15pm and had free reign on where to sit, but when I turned around and away from the bar about 15 minutes later, it had well and truly reached its capacity – a sign of its popularity among Sydney-siders.    

P.S. sorry I don’t have any (acceptable) photos for Mojo Record Bar. I did try to take some, but they turned out too dark on my humble BlackBerry phone.

Mojo Record Bar on Urbanspoon

Mejico – 105 Pitt Street, Sydney

 

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mejico.com.au

This is a new bright and colourful gem to the streets of Sydney’s CBD. And by bright and colourful, I mean literally – as soon as I walked in, I was confronted by an array of colour. In the front section is a cosy bar, where you can sit and have a cocktail while you wait for your table. But a word of warning, we went on a Tuesday night for dinner at around 7pm, and it was frantically busy, so I can’t even imagine what it would be like on a Friday night! At the time of posting this, the place had only been open for a couple of weeks, so its bright and sparkly newness may die down over time.

The restaurant itself is long and narrow – to the left is a long table and beyond that, a seating bar, both of which to share with other patrons. Behind the seating bar, you can see the chefs working away behind smoky windows. Individual tables are also dotted across the restaurant. Gorgeous vintage candlesticks and pitchers, thick off-white candles, and spiky cactus plants line the middle of the long table. Above are giant bell-shaped lightshades. Painted on the left wall is a large swirling black cactus-like image that is also strangely phallic. Neon pink seems to be the colour of choice – the front feature walls, chairs, cardboard menus, and guys’ uniform t-shirts were all marked by this colour.  In fact, the guys’ pink and white striped t-shirts reminded me of American candy striper volunteers. Taking in all of the surroundings, the place has a decidedly soft pink haze to it. 

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We sat down to our table which had its own mortar and pestle. Next to that were water glasses that resembled oversized shot glasses – a thoughtful touch considering the sizeable list of tequilas available. From the menu we chose a selection to share, including fresh guacamole dip and banana chips, chorizo, lamb shoulder tacos, smoked pork belly tacos, Portobello mushrooms with sweet potato croquetas, and glazed pork ribs. To drink, I chose the Picante Espana Tempranillo Syrah – only wines from Spain and South America made the cut for this wine list. The beer list was mainly Mexican, including a chilli beer. My wine was sweet, but tangy and very well balanced, I really enjoyed it.

When the waitress came over to deliver our fresh guacamole, I discovered that the mortar and pestle wasn’t just there for pure decoration. Our waitress proceeded to bash the ingredients together right there in front of us using the mortar and pestle. I love quirky and different things, so for me this was the highlight of the night. We watched as she scooped the avocado out of their skins, and mixed in coriander, Spanish onion, lime juice, Serrano chilli and pistachio nuts.  The result was a beautifully spiced and chunky guacamole dip. The long banana chips were perfect for the dip, but I wish there had been more. The chorizo had a delicious smoky flavour – it was diced into small cubes and combined with small black Mexican beans and a hint of cream. This was also served with banana chips as well as lime wedges and a delightful paprika salt.

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The lamb tacos were beautiful – rich in flavour, soft and melt in your mouth – served with a mint-infused mayonnaise.  I preferred these to the pork belly tacos (served with a black bean hummus), but they were good too if you like pork belly. I can’t have too much of it myself as I find it too greasy. The pork ribs were nice, but not the best I’ve had. The basting sauce had a good sticky sweetness to it, but I felt the meat could have been softer. It was served with polenta chips, which I really enjoyed. The Portobello mushrooms and sweet potato croquetas were pleasant, especially with the manchengo cheese, black bean puree and tomatillo salsa, but I didn’t think there was enough seasoning to the dish, making it a little bland.

I would definitely come back here; the food was overall enjoyable and while there were some (minor) flaws, you can really taste the freshness in the food. The atmosphere is fun, cheeky and retro making it a fabulous destination for dinner and drinks with a group of friends who like to drink. This isn’t the same old Mexican place either; it takes the experience to another level, making Mejico well differentiated from the rest.

Méjico on Urbanspoon