On the north side of Barangaroo’s waterfront near Cirrus, there’s a back alley with a lift. Take it to P1 and you’ll find Nola. It has 270 seats, water views, around 500 whiskies, a 2.5-metre-long open-grill fire pit and a hickory-packed smoker filling the restaurant with that American barbeque smell.
It’s likely much of the early crowd has come from The Swinging Cat, the other venue by co-owners Pete Fischer and Richard Duff (who’s also the chef). It was the first place Fischer started pouring New Orleans cocktails and serving the boutique, high-end American whiskey he imports.
The kitchen’s massive fire pit and smoker punches out dry-aged beef brisket; pulled pork shoulder; and tea-brined, blackened chicken. There are also New Orleans classics such as oysters Rockefeller-style with watercress, garlic and brioche crumbs, and grilled, buttery, red-claw yabbies (they’d call them crayfish in the US).
The bar mixes New Orleans classics such as a Sazerac; a rum-and-passionfruit Hurricane; and a Ramos Gin Fizz that uses cream, lemon and egg. Nola also does a few small bites, such as Cajun fried calamari, po’ boys and Maryland-style crab cakes.
It’s even styled like New Orleans with the four quarters of the city represented by four sections. There’s a plush French Colonial VIP lounge; a copper bar with dark carpets and room for a jazz band; a wooden, brightly coloured private room; and a dining area painted with pastels, timber and greenery.