The Swinging Cat – Sydney CBD

theswingingcat-basement

It’s finally happened: a Sydney bar opened up that not only has a whole menu page dedicated to sazeracs, but also has a cat in its name.

The Swinging Cat is a New Orleans-inspired small bar lurking underneath the Subway franchise on the corner of King and Clarence.

They have:

  • jazz playing on the sound system
  • a swish, subterranean jazz-bar feel
  • friendly, knowledgeable staff.

Ignoring all the food, the non-sazerac drinks, as well as the variations of sazeracs on offer (such as a smoky chocolate sazerac, and a minty sazerac), I simply order a straight sazerac. After all, ordering anything else would be like getting seafood in a steak house. Continue reading

Tokyo Bird – Surry Hills


My spiritual mantra used to be “eatin’s cheatin’” – but that’s until I had the chicken and shallot yakitori at Tokyo Bird.

Smoky, tender, and better than any yakitori I’ve ever had (all the yakitori I’ve had in the past was so bad that I’m tempted to make a yuckitori joke), I’m now questioning my beliefs – and wondering why there aren’t more Japanese bars in Sydney like this.

Tokyo Bird is a small Surry Hills bar that focuses on Japanese whiskey (their menu lists 19 varieties) and giving an oriental twist to classic cocktails – although they also have sake and a decent range of Japanese beer that extends beyond Asahi.

Their food menu is focused primarily on skewered meats – and that’s perfectly fine by me, although the liver yakitori stretches my comfort level. Continue reading

The Powder Keg – Potts Point


The bartender’s worrying about the smoke alarms as he serves my cocktail – and considering it’s encased in a glass cloche filled with so much smoke you can barely see the drink itself, I’m not surprised.

I’m in The Powder Keg, a new gin bar in Potts Point located where Aperitif used to be. It’s the latest venture by Grant Collins, a bar consultant known for adding theatricality to cocktails – and so I couldn’t help ordering the most over-the-top cocktail on the menu.

The bartender lifts the cloche, and the smoke immediately sends me back to my childhood days of burning leaves in the backyard. I suspect my growth was stunted as a result of breathing in all those fumes as a kid, but I’ll leave that story for my therapist and continue with the review.

The cocktail is called the Gun Powder Plot ($18), which is made with gin spiked with gunpowder tea, Fernet Branca, gunpowder syrup (made by combining gunpowder tea with sugar syrup), dandelion and burdock bitters, lemon juice and egg white for froth.

It’s the best cocktail I’ve had in months. Continue reading

Ask the Dust by John Fante

Far before J.D. Salinger’s Catcher in the Rye and John Kennedy Toole’s A Confederacy of Dunces, there was an author writing about young misfits with flair and passion: John Fante.

In the 1930s Fante began a series of novels starring Arturo Bandini, a delusional, obnoxious, socially incompetent and penniless wannabe writer who is, I am afraid to say, someone I relate far too closely to. Fante’s first novel, The Road to Los Angeles, was rejected and unpublished until after his death in 1985. The second, Wait Until Spring, Bandini (1938), gained critical praise but it was his third – Ask the Dust (1939) – that was a work of genius.

Far ahead of its time, Ask the Dust didn’t shake the literary world on its release and went out of publication. If not for a young Charles Bukowski, who stumbled upon it in a public library after running out of drinking money, it may have remained that way. Continue reading