There’s nothing new about looking old in the world of small bars – after all, most feature more second-hand furniture than a uni student’s apartment. Yet what makes Hinky Dinks stand out is that it does feel new – in a 1950s way.
What I mean is that its retro décor has been built from scratch, making it feel like a brand spanking new 1950s apartment. The pastel surfaces gleam, the red and white bar stools are vibrant, the pineapple-shaped lamps shimmer and the low leather settee is … ok, I ran out of adjectives. If only there was a vintage record player then the look would be perfect (although they do have a vintage refrigerator humming along at one end).
What also makes Hinky Dinks stand out is its Madagascar Manhattan ($16) – so much so that, after trying it on a Sunday night, I come back the following Wednesday just to have it again.
Made with vanilla and citrus peel-infused bourbon, sweet vermouth, agave syrup and chocolate bitters, the Madagascar Manhattan is served in a crystal glass (on the Sunday it was garnished with an orange twist and on Wednesday with a maraschino cherry). The result both times was a delicate drink that belied its strength, with the vanilla, citrus and chocolate hints adding a fragrant softness. It’s by far the best cocktail I’ve had in weeks – although, for the record, I prefer the orange twist.
The menu is geared toward alcohol-soaking snacks such as the pan-fried olive and parmesan sandwich ($9) and fried squid ($16), as well as oysters with blood orange and coriander gastrique.
For me the sandwich is the winner (I am a sucker for gooey cheese) and the squid’s good too. I tried this on my second visit when I came with a chef friend, and although he pointed out that the batter could be a little crisper, he was still happy – the batter’s light, the squid tender and …
Ah crap, I’ve used so many adjectives I’ve bored myself.
The rest of this review will be in bullet points:
- The jazz music on Sunday is quiet enough for conversation and on Wednesday there was no music, which actually worked fine as the place was so busy it was still humming
- The bar’s named after a corrupt Chicago politician who gave out drinks for votes
- If you’ve had a bad day then try the Zombie, which is so potent they make a point of only serving two per customer. Made with silver, aged and op rum, cinnamon syrup, passionfruit, grapefruit, flamed absinthe and mint, this Tiki drink doesn’t taste anywhere near as alcoholic as it is.
- Talking of cocktails named after the dead, the Corpse Reviver No. Blue is another deceptively smooth and yet strong drink. Made with South Gin, Lillet Blanc, triple sec, absinthe and fresh lemon, it uses blue curacao to give it an electric blue colour that, combined with a rich egg foam on top, makes it look like something from a cartoon. It’s a good party drink – but in my humble opinion, the less ostentatious Madagascar Manhattan is a much better cocktail.
Hinky Dinks, 185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst. Open seven days a week until late. See the Hinky Dinks website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Hinky Dinks?
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