Hospitality may not be the first thing to come to mind when you think about crowdsourcing. But thanks to the team behind IconPark, Sydney’s first-ever crowdsourced venue will open on Stanley Street this month. IconPark co-founders Dean McEvoy and Paul Schell want to highlight Sydney’s passionate food and drink culture, and give the public a chance to support some of the country’s most creative food and drink professionals. And Sydney has spoken.

The concept behind Stanley Street Merchants is three-fold; beginning with the locally sourced, fully sustainable eatery, headed by Matt Stone and Duncan McCance. The boys are sustainability pioneers who are well versed in innovative methods of ethical cooking. In the restaurant, each ingredient will be sourced from as close to home as possible, and the team’s passion for ultilising Australia’s most rugged produce will shine through in these carefully crafted dishes. When we ask for a single, must-try recommendation from Stone’s new menu, he doesn’t hesitate, “Australian kangaroo served with native fruits and spices,” he says. But he can’t help adding in a mention of fried crickets with Australian seven spice. Beyond serving up these simply prepared meals, the boys make it clear that the venue will act as an enabler, giving Sydneysiders an understanding of sustainability and the knowledge they need to use these ingredients at home.

The back of the venue will house Uncle Sal’s House of Cards and Dominos, a password-protected booze den run by Melbourne’s Sal Malatesta (St ALi coffee), small bar alum, Bobby Carey (Shady Pines and Vasco) and Jeremy Spencer, the man behind West Wind Gins. “This building used to be an illegal gambling house,” explains Spencer, “Sal’s father used to come here and play cards in the 1950s,” he says. At that time, Darlinghurst was known as Sydney’s red-light district, rife with illegal gambling and prohibition-like bars, which harboured soldiers from the army barracks up the road. When the group learned this about the venue, it made sense to reflect this history in their concept. Rum and gin were the preferred spirits of old, and Spencer feels it’s important to celebrate that heritage. Uncle Sal’s will also serve a house-made Negroni, using The West Winds Gin and Maidenii Australia vermouth, rumoured to be served in a hollowed-out cannon ball.

The third element of the venue involves The East Sydney Distilling Co. which takes up residence upstairs. Here Spencer and Carey will serve the finest of local tributary alcohols. These two are no strangers to the ever-evolving Sydney bar scene and the need for venues to celebrate their unique attributes. “Sydney’s drinking culture has changed,” explains Spencer. “There is a more intimate feel to it now, and customers take the time to get to know their bartenders, they are more interested in the story behind the bar.”

With more than 800 supporters having voted them to number one, most of whom have already pre-purchased food and drink packages, the boys will be busy. And they are excited to finally share their project with those who backed them, explains Spencer. The team really live and breathe this idea and when it came to convincing the public to buy into it, “Really, it is just about believing in what you want.”

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