Some of the best chefs in town have made the leap from traditional eateries to bars, so now there’s more to fill up on pre-dinner than just beer nuts. And this style of snacking comes with people-watching and top-notch drinks. Here are some dishes to try the next time you’re out for a few quiet ones.
Nardin smoked anchovies and a Vermut Continental at Continental Deli
The herbal notes in this sweet vermouth drink – caught in the Cantabrian Sea and delivered in the can – bring out the oily, smoky, salty flavours of the Nardin smoked anchovies. Served on the rocks with an orange wedge and an olive, you’ll see why it’s a classic pairing on the streets of Barcelona.
Suckling-pig sausage roll and a No Sleep Til Brooklyn at Bennelong Bar
You don’t need to hand in your weekly pay for a night at one of the best dining rooms in the country – nab a seat at the bar and order a snack instead. Warning: the suckling-pig sausage roll, made to order using black garlic (allow around 20 minutes) will ruin you: not many other sauso rolls in Sydney can live up to it. Savour it, the view and the No Sleep Til Brooklyn: barrel-aged bourbon and Ron Zacapa Rum with American Picon Aperol and Mederia.
Sausage sizzle and a Seppeltsfield sherry at Dead Ringer Restaurant & Bar
Dead Ringer’s version of the Aussie favourite is Morcilla, grilled and stacked with pickled brussels sprouts, chilli yoghurt and fried eschallots wrapped in white bread. “Seppeltsfield's DP117 Dry Flor Apera, a fino-style sherry wine from South Australia, is dry, nutty and complex enough to cut through the Mediterranean flavours of the dish,” says Tim Philips, director of Third Drawer Down Hospitality, which owns Dead Ringer. If you’re after something a little stiffer, go the Sherry Cobbler: Amontillado sherry, Tanqueray gin, fresh lemon and orange, shaken with a dash of sugar and bitters.
Filet-o-fish and a pale ale at The Gretz
Gregory Llewellyn and Naomi Hart’s convivial American-style bar offers table service, so it’s easy to cancel your dinner reservation up the street and fill up on tasty bites here instead. The filet-o-fish is on the substantial side, with fried hake, double American cheese and a decent smear of punchy tartare on a house-baked milk bun. “It’s our answer to providing people with a light-yet-filling meal in a whimsical 'slap in the face' manner,” says head chef Todd King. “I feel it is paired best with a big, robust IPA, or porter: the bitterness and acidity play off each other in a very exciting manner.”
Corn dog and a Lessey’s Concept at Busby Bar
Snag the leather couch at this basement bar and make your way through its finger-food menu. Like Riley Street Garage upstairs, the oysters are top-notch, but it’s hard to say no to the chorizo corndogs. These explosive little balls of chorizo sausage are dipped in batter and skewered onto cocktail sticks with a pickle and a dollop of mustard mayo. Pair a Lessey’s Concept with the crisp, spicy coating; it’s halfway between a Negroni and an Old Fashioned, and the apricot brandy offers a nice tug-and-pull to the meaty flavours in the corn dog. Or try it with a Little Creatures pale ale.
Duck-liver parfait and a Pennyweight sherry at Bar Brosé
Bar Brosé is the recently opened bar from the ACME team, and its duck-liver parfait – dressed with pumpernickel, cumquats and walnuts – are winter flavours at their best. Balance its savoury, sweet and tart flavours with a glass of Pennyweight La Serena Oloroso sherry from Beechworth Victoria; it’s complex enough to stand up to the parfait’s bold flavours and has a dry finish to cut through the creaminess.
Bacalhau croquettes and a glass of Avarinho at Bibo Bar
Mediterranean share plates with a Portuguese slant are the type of snacks at this low-lit neighbourhood bar, such as the plump bacalhau (salted cod) croquettes. Sommelier Louella Mathews (ex-Rockpool Bar & Grill) recommends the fruit-forward 2014 Dona Paterna Alvarinho/Trajadura by Vinho Verde (Portugal) to hold in the other hand. “The crisp minerality complements the fish in the croquettes and just a touch of spritz at the end cleanses the palate, ready for the next dish.” If you’re famished, we suggest the beef short rib with potato, horseradish and red wine.
Polenta chips and a biodynamic cider at Bloodwood Restaurant and Bar
While the menu has evolved over time, thankfully, Bloodwood’s golden, crunchy polenta chips have remained. The gorgonzola dipping sauce has plenty of bite. One of Bloodwood’s ciders, such as the biodynamic one from Bress in Harcourt, Victoria, is our swill pick.
Prawn cocktail and a glass of Blind Unicorn Chenin Blanc at The Unicorn
The Unicorn and Mary’s guys have teamed up with WA winemakers Blind Corner on an exclusive new sparkling wine they’re now pouring at both venues; Blind Unicorn Juice is an unfiltered, unrefined, no-nonsense chenin blanc, with a splash of shiraz for colour. It’s the perfect sap to match with a few prawn cocktails. The Unicorn’s take on the classic British starter is fairly true to form, with the addition of almonds.