It’s been over a year since The General ceased its evening service. The all-day Dulwich Hill eatery once did a roaring dinner trade on a high street that mostly shuts at 8pm, but closing the venue at night was a vital decision for its owners’ work-life balance.
“It was a massive effort doing breakfast, lunch and dinner,” says Dave Moran who, along with the other co-owner Josh McPhee, was pulling 70-hour weeks. The chefs were exhausted.
They closed at night and after a couple months the pair began working with a General alumnus, Lucas Van Agten, who helped put on the odd bar night. “We did cheese, natural wine and cocktail pop-ups and they booked out really quickly,” he says.
That’s when they decided to make the bar offering a permanent fixture, and Bar General was born.
It has a one-page snack menu and the idea is you order a couple to fill you up. There’s a New York pretzel with house-churned butter, chicken wings, an incredible cheese and mushroom truffle toastie, and a hearty beef burger. “We knew we couldn’t commit to the restaurant anymore but we knew we could nail a really good bar,” says Moran.
Moran says they’ve taken a “chef-y approach” to cocktails, incorporating “shrubs” into many of the drinks. To make it, “you cook up the fruit with sugar and vinegar until the fruit softens,” he says. “The oils and flavours release and then we infuse the shrub with other flavours like pepperberries and basil.”
The Pineapple Express has a pineapple shrub base, mixed with sage-infused gin and finished with star anise. The Kumquat Spritz is made from a shrub of local backyard kumquats, rosemary and sparkling wine, making it dangerously easy to drink.
Moran says the inner-west community still see The General as a food venue, so it has been difficult to shift expectations. “An identity change is really hard,” he says. “People still think of us as a dinner place, but Dulwich Hill really needs some bars. Between us, The Sausage Factory and [the forthcoming] Butcher’s Brew, we’re hoping to lead the way with the night scene in the area.”