Argyle – The Rocks

The Argyle's courtyard bar in The Rocks

As we walk through The Argyle’s cobbled courtyard and into the main sandstone building, complete with a suspended glass-enclosed DJ booth, dangling metallic light fixtures that look like robotic tentacles, wooden posts and various chains to add a convict ambiance, my Kiwi friend’s eyes light up like a pinball machine.

“I like it,” he says. “I like it a lot.”

Considering it’s a Saturday night and the place is filled to the brim with women out for a good time, I suspect he’s not talking about the décor.

Then again, he’s not the only one out on the prowl. A group of American guys near the entrance are chatting up the women who pass by (and seem to be doing well) and everywhere you look you see guys and girls in their 20s and 30s flirting and mingling. It’s hard to believe this is the same place I used to visit as a kid back when it was a tourist destination filled with souvenir and trinket shops.

Back then my father told me this used to be a prison, probably because of the barred windows, but it was actually built in 1881 as a wool store. Now, however, it’s home to five different bars (one in the courtyard, two on the ground floor and two on the first floor) plus there’s a VIP room for private parties.

We head upstairs where the queues are less manic and I order a Hemingway daiquiri (white rum, maraschino liqueur, lime juice and grapefruit juice) that’s served in a martini glass with a maraschino cherry. This is subtle in flavour and slightly sour, with a gentler taste than a margarita or even a vodka, lime and soda (incidentally, Ernest Hemingway was a diabetic, which is why he liked his drinks without sugar – which is where the maraschino liqueur fits in. A good recipe and backgrounder can also be found at Bunny Got Blog).

Regardless of its origins, I like this drink and hope it’ll make me look more sophisticated to the ladies than my Kiwi friend, who ordered an Asahi beer instead. My plan backfires, however, as the Kiwi soon makes eye contact with an attractive lass and leaves me in order to perform the mating ritual. I can’t help but wonder if that happened to Ernest as well.

My Kiwi friend’s motto is ‘eatin’s cheatin’ but those after food can also dine here, with meals ranging from Indian butter chicken to sushi. In the past I’ve had the salt and pepper chilli calamari, served with wild lime aioli and rocket salad, which I definitely recommend.

Argyle, 2-18 Argyle Street, The Rocks, Sydney. Open every day until late. Phone 9247 5500 or see the Argyle website

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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Argyle?