Stitch Bar is all about fun. It's there at the entrance, from the spools of thread in the window to the Singer sewing machine propping open the door.
The basement bar is one of the city's smallest, and it feels like half of Sydney is already here, cocktails in hand and chattering up a storm.
All the action is happening around the bar, a vision of gleaming bottles framed by sewing machine covers hanging overhead. The cocktail list is huge with 28 concoctions on the menu, priced between $17 and $21.50.
The boys behind the bar are a frenzy of activity, shaking those cocktail shakers like their lives depended on it.
We've come for the bar menu of course, and are dismayed to find that even at 6pm, every table is taken. There's no waiting list, a waitress tells us, so we're forced to hover around the dining area until we eventually pounce on a departing table. You can make reservations for tables if you call in advance - we're definitely doing that the next time we visit.
The dining area is a haphazard collection of stools, chairs and tables with booth seating along one wall. A couple of barrels pass for tables in one section, and we spy a large table with tea lights cosily tucked into a wall recess in the back corner. Beneath the entrance stairs is the stockroom, a locked cage of wine bottles with a pint-sized entrance that forces bar star to bend themselves in half just to enter.
Burgers and hot dogs make up the bulk of the menu, all priced to give you minimal change from $20. Lime-roasted nuts (pistachios, almonds, hazelnuts and sour cherries) and plates of dip with grilled sourdough cost $14 each, but we stick with the hand cut crisp potatoes to start us off instead.
The potatoes arrive quickly, blistering hot and piled until overflowing in a small metal mixing bowl. Only the smallest pieces are super crunchy, but the whole roasted garlic cloves are a treat, and we peel off their papery skins to get at the caramelised pod inside.
Between the five of us, we manage to cover most of the hot dog options. Suze only has (crazy) eyes for the Mack Ducky Dog - it was the promise of foie gras that did it.
The hot dogs come out on paper-lined metal plates, the sausages lightly charred from the grill. The sausages are meaty and not too greasy, and the buns are soft but substantial - not the squishy kind you get from the supermarket, but proper baked ones with a faintly sweet crust.
I'd gone for the wild boar sausage, livened by a generous trail of coleslaw although I can't detect much alcohol in the rum-soaked currants.
Richard's BLT burger is forgotten initially, but we chase it up and it arrives after another five minute wait. It's a squat but chunky burger, speared together with a pickle-topped skewer. The other burgers on offer include the cheeky-sounding Big Bird turkey burger ($19) as well as pork, vegetable and lamb (all $16). The burrito ($16) comes with chorizo and crispy potatoes.
Our only quibble was that our curly fries all arrived stone cold, and tasted heavy on the tongue with congealed oil. They weren't particularly crunchy either but the heavy dusting of chilli powder was a surprise.
Ash St Cellar
Chocolate and date tart (tart of the day) $14
We're celebrating Richard's birthday so we move on in search of dessert. A quick scout around the dessert menus in the area leads us to Ash St Cellar. I saw the crazy eyes in Richard when he spotted the chocolate and dart tart on display in the window.
The laneway in the middle of the Ivy complex is buzzing. It's a balmy evening and there are plenty of happy people dining al fresco at Ash St Cellar and Felix bistro. Staff are happy for us to dine in for dessert, although we end up at an outdoor table, right next to the door that leads down to the bathrooms.
The chocolate and dart tart is gorgeously glossy with a super rich filling that is a balance of dark chocolate chocolate and cream. The tart shell is short and crisp and though the double cream is tempting, we don't end up eating much of it as the tart isn't overly sweet.
Vanilla creme brulee with Pedro Ximenez sherry prunes $14
We also share the vanilla creme brulee, covered in a thick rink of toffee that is deliciously bitter. Beneath the silky layer of custard is a muddle of sherry-soaked prunes, delicious on their own, but I find it interferes too much with the languid texture of the custard. The inclusion of prunes also seems to echo the dates in our chocolate tart, an odd repetition given these are the only two desserts available on the menu.
But who's complaining? We finished every last bit of it. And how can you beat a night with friends, cocktails, hot dogs and dessert.
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4/06/2011 04:59:00 am