This old-fashioned underground den on Macquarie Street has become my new favourite dive bar and restaurant. Hidden away with just a tiny sign near the door (the formal name is the International Nippon Australia New Zealand Club), this is a bit like an RSL club that serves sake and Japanese beer, is run by Japanese folk and has a great Japanese restaurant hidden at the back.
With the exception of some paper lanterns, screens and Japanese posters this looks like an RSL, from the padded bar counter and red carpet to the check-in desk where visitors have to fill out a slip before entry. There’s a pokie area, simple tables and chairs that could have come from a takeaway shop and a gaudy air that the lawyers from the nearby firms and courts seem to like after a long day of – well, lawyering.
The service, however, is always friendly and the jugs of sake are great – but the real attraction is the restaurant at the back.
Despite the daggy décor the restaurant’s food is the real deal. A sushi chef stands before a bench filled with fresh fish and the sashimi is the best I’ve ever had in Sydney (the salmon sashimi, for example, is so delicate and fresh it virtually melts in your mouth). The first time I came was with my friend Dot, who despite not liking sashimi still loved the yellowtail sashimi entrée, and the second time was with the Amazonian Croatian who devoured two sashimi platters and claimed the sashimi is even better here than in Japan (where she’s spent some time in the past).
Everything else here is perfectly done as well, from the Japanese-style fried chicken to the tofu soup with bonito flakes and the green tea ice-cream that looks horrifically dark green (the colour actually put me off) but which tastes great.
The prices here are also extremely low – the yellowtail sashimi, for example, only cost $9.
The Nippon Club might not win any design awards (although it is the most retro bar I’ve ever seen in the Sydney CBD) but for my money it’s certainly one of the most pleasurable and quirky discoveries I’ve come across in a while.
Nippon Club, 229 Macquarie Street, Sydney. Phone 9232 2688.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Nippon Club?