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

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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