What's in a name? Everything, I say, especially if you get to say "Let's go to Grandma's!" with genuine enthusiasm on a Friday night.
I'd like to think that the proliferation of small bars in Sydney illustrates an appreciation for the quirky, independent business run on heart and soul, but is it also mandatory to make the bar as hard to find as possible? Is the secret entrance all about creating an air of exclusivity and accomplishment as you jauntily make your way down backstreet alleys and empty stairwells?
Grandma's Bar in the basement, below The Guitar Lounge; and
There's no on-street signage for Grandma's Bar. Everyone just looks for the guitar shop on Clarence Street which includes a view of the bar through the basement windows.
A stuffed and mounted deer wearing a baseball cap is the first sight that greets you on the stairs. Grandma is also a fan of toffee apples, judging by the stash on the staircase - we could have guessed she'd have a sweet tooth.
Tiger beer in a brown paper bag; Grandma's bar area
The bar area downstairs is narrow and cosy, filled with an eclectic mix of mismatched lounges and chairs. We presume that Grandma doesn't approve of beer, sending out Mr Darcy's Tiger beer in a brown paper bag. She does enjoy a tipple however, with a comprehensive cocktail menu that includes detailed descriptions of each concoction.
We head straight for the cocktail list, with Suze immediately lured by the potency of the nuclear dacquiri -- It's like three drinks in one! spruiks the bartender. Sold! says Suze. It's a potent mix of Wray & Nephew overproof rum, green chartreuse, velvet falernum (almond and ginger syrup) and fresh lime juice.
Minh's match spring punch combines vodka, raspberries, cassis, lemon and sugar topped with champagne but to be honest, we're most excited by the plastic monkey hanging off the edge of the glass.
I'd gone for the basil grande, not as strong in basil flavour as I'd hoped, but still refreshing with vodka, strawberries, Chambord, Grand Marnier and cranberry juice.
Ultimate mai tai on the cocktail menu
The bar fills up quickly with patrons, mostly couples or small groups of friends. We find the roaming bar staff relaxed and friendly, and happy to chat about the cocktails on offer.
It's the novelty Tiki cup that convinces Minh and Suze to order the ultimate mai tai but the real highlight is when we realise it includes the spectacle of FIRE.
A small frypan is used to flame the Wray & Newphew overproof white rum, floated on top of a heady cocktail made with Appleton Extra Jamaican run, Creole schrubb (an orange and rum liquer), orgeat (sweet syrup made from almonds, sguar and orange flower water), lime, roasted pineapple and bitters.
We can only cackle with pyromaniac delight.
Ultimate mai tai
Would Grandma let you visit without offering something to eat? Of course not. The bar food menu is all about the humble jaffle, simple but comforting and served on vintage crockery that is all but missing the paper doily.
The $7.50 price tag on a jaffle seems a little steep but cheaper snacks of biltong South African cured beef ($4.50) and a tea cup of curried cashews ($4) are also available.
Visiting Grandma has never been so much fun.
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12/08/2011 04:26:00 a.m.