Absinthe Salon is unusual, highly specific and small enough to feel a bit exclusive. Positioned behind a terrace in one of the quieter stretches of Surry Hills and with an unassuming sign overhead, it’s not the easiest place to find. So look out for the dedicated gift shop for absinthe paraphernalia, with water fountains, silver sugar spoons and crystal glasses on display at the front.
The bar is furnished with gaudy curtains, small tables, lashings of baroque wallpaper and a black lamppost. The kitsch décor makes the place feel like an underground Parisian lair during the turn of the 19th century. It’s unlikely you’ll get through all two-dozen absinthes – particularly with a three drink maximum in place – but owners Gaye Valttila and Joop van Heusden will happily recommend the best starting points and help dispel the myths endemic to the history of absinthe (those in want of hallucinatory experiences need not apply).
With a water fountain for each table you’re able to dissolve your own sugar through the slotted spoons and watch your drink louche (become cloudy). As a curious and figurative footnote, the ‘Mansinthe’ is not the reference to machismo that one might think, but instead Marilyn Manson’s rendition of the aniseed spirit.
Petit fours are available and make a nice contrast to the herbal notes of your drink, but otherwise you’re here for one thing only. Absinthe Salon is an experience to be savoured, rather than sped through. Everything about the setting, and its ritual, conspires to contain you for a while.