“The Hook is a mishmash of things I’ve fallen in love with over the years,” David Spanton tells Broadsheet. He could be referring to the array of vintage curiosities adorning his new Kings Cross bar. Or the lengthy menu of classic cocktails. The healthy supply of oysters? Or maybe the style of service: attentive bartenders ensuring your cup is full and your evening is pleasant. Whatever it is, if The Hook reflects what Spanton’s into – we’re into what he’s into.

“What we’ve created is an old-school oyster saloon that’s doing old-school hospitality service, good cocktails, coastal whiskies and ales,” he says. A beautiful horseshoe bar fills the room, giving bartenders a good view to steer the ship.

The red-lit 250-square-metre drinking den opened last night, and it’s staggering compared to Spanton’s other pair: the teeny Piccolo and slightly bigger (and newer) Vermuteria. Here, the MO is bivalves – and lots of ‘em. Theatrically shucked to order, plump oysters come in their half-shell; grilled Rockefeller style; jazzed up with bacon, cheese or garlic; or immersed in a deep shot glass full of vodka and Bloody Mary. (The last one’s a spicy slap in the face, the perfect wake-up if you want your night to stretch on.)

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“The oyster bar is natural progression of bartending,” Spanton says, referencing the theatrics. “It’s just a matter of making sure we can keep up with the pace of it all – they’re not easy, shucking these oysters, let me tell you. There’s a real art to it.”

Per Spanton’s style, the cocktails stay simple and classic, or come with a modern twist. There’s the Black Velvet, where Guinness and prosecco meet in a flute, serving “that Irish saloon, Scottish kind of vibe”. Also by the flute is a French 75, the New Orleans-born muddle that sparkles with champagne, gin and a lemon twist. There’s a 1940s Hurricane, with passionfruit, “lots of rum” and a dash of grenadine; and three Martinis. The Hook Martini is a 50/50 – the wet pour Spanton’s a fan of – with Never Never Oyster Shell Gin and vermouth, while the saline 1951 Martini delivers a Cointreau rinse and a snack (skewered anchovy-stuffed olives).

Despite the elevated menu of booze and just-shucked bivalves, the red-lit bar is buzzy and relaxed. It’s a big space with a full kitchen, so Spanton had “no choice but to step it up” from the snacky Euro-style offering at Vermuteria and Piccolo. It’s good drinking food: piping-hot fries (very important) come piled on a plate, and there’s an LP’s hotdog and a simple burger. Plus, a cheese plate from Penny’s and a tortilla de patatas.

When Broadsheet visited on opening night, friends were perched on bar stools around Spanton’s beloved horseshoe and groups filled the sexy velvet booths along the back wall. The walls are adorned with treasures that have been collected over years. It’s a museum of vintage beer lights, usually seen haloing pool tables. Old coasters form a collage behind the bar, and paintings and creative pieces (like a model ship and wall of oyster shells) cement the coastal vibe. Spanton nods to long-time collaborator and friend Mike Delany for the transporting fit-out.

A third Kings Cross spot was never the intention, but when he and Amy Spanton (his wife and business partner) spied the site, they pounced. “We’ve got a little Bermuda Triangle of bars now,” he says. “The area needs to be called Kings Cross again … we want to put a little bit of pride back into the name, and make people understand that it’s safe. There’s a lot of good history as well as bad – anything that’s been around this long is going to get a mix of things. It’s a great place to come, whether you call it Kings Cross or Potts Point.”

The Hook
1/17 Bayswater Road, Kings Cross

Hours:
Wed to Sat 5pm–midnight
Sun 5pm–10pm

thehooksydney.com.au
@thehooksydney