The Great Depression might have been a major theme of the 1930s, but for Sydney it was, in part, a time of celebration spurred on by the opening of the Harbour Bridge and artistic, intellectual and social change.
It’s this “light at the end of the tunnel” vibe that general manager Brandon Martignago hopes to revive with the opening of Dulcie’s King Cross. It’s a timely development given the long list of venue closures in the area in recent years (Soho Bar and Yu Nightclub, Hugos, including The World Bar).
“Everyone is quick to say the Cross is dead and Sydney’s nightlife is dead,” Martignago says. “We’re reintroducing a time of sophistication and style, and creating a space where people can go to appreciate having whisky on ice instead of getting hammered.”
The 60-person basement drinking parlour – which once served as a popular strip club and a rumoured heroin dispensary – has been named after Sydney’s queen of bohemia, Dulcie Deamer, who was also a novelist, poet, thespian, journalist, founder of the Fellowship of Australian Writers and the first female boxing reporter.
“We wanted to pin ourselves to a local iconic identity and we knew Dulcie Deamer was it when we learned that at the age of 74 she was told by the doctor to stop doing the splits on bars because she had a heart attack,” Martignago says.
As a way to reacquaint bar-goers with the bougie bohemian and debaucherous lifestyle of Deamer and fellow artists of the era, the venue features decadent fabric, rugs and antique furniture. Old portraits of Deamer, posters of old maps and photos of Sydney before the Harbour Bridge was built hang on the walls.
The stage of the former venue remains intact and will be used for tarot reading, burlesque, cabaret and monologues. At 1am on Friday and Saturday nights there will be live shows.
Dulcie’s is also about showing and celebrating modern Australia says Martignago; it's serving only Australian wines, spirits and produce.
The cocktail list has been inspired by people and places that have defined Sydney culture. The Burn ’em Down Dawn is named after Dawn O’Donnell, a prominent supporter of Sydney’s LGBTQI community. It’s a concoction of Starward Two-Fold whisky, lemon-myrtle liquor, and a dash of fig and cinnamon bitters, before it’s set ablaze with Jezebel absinthe.
Homage is also paid to activist Juanita Nielsen, who saved Victoria Street from high-rise development in the 1970s, with the Darling Juanita – a mix of Remedy dry gin, cucumber juice, basil, cracked pepper and mandarin syrup. There’s a dedicated list for Martinis, a drink that rose in popularity during the 1930s.
While cocktails are the main act, attention has been paid to the wines. Most are sourced from South Australia, with the odd riesling from Canberra’s Mallaluka Wines. You could pair it with a toastie. Flavours change depending on the meats and cheeses available.
Dulcie’s Kings Cross
44B Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
Tue to Sat 5pm–2am
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on December 6, 2018. Menu items may have changed since publication.