Palmer and Co – Sydney CBD

I can’t help thinking of sewage as I drink a cocktail in Palmer and Co, which is Merivale’s (ie Justin Hemme’s) take on a small bar.

Thoughts of sewage isn’t, however, necessarily a bad thing – after all, this is located underneath the Tank Stream Bar and showcases the old exposed bricks and arches of Sydney’s old tank stream, which was originally a source of fresh water before it became a sewer.

Like many small bars, Palmer and Co is going for a vintage feel. The DJ booth is disguised behind a vintage fliptop table and plays 1920s music, the female staff are dressed as flappers, there’s wooden beams, candles and zinc countertops, as well as retro kitsch galore, from an ancient boxing bag to some old hats and a leather cap in a lighted display case that makes me think of the video clip to Closer.

I really, genuinely want to say that I’m actually getting bored with the whole faux speakeasy small bar thing – but I have to admit, Palmer and Co takes it so far I’m still pretty impressed.

The food menu is odd, since it’s filled with old Manhattan style Jewish meals such as matzo ball soup, chopped liver and corned beef on rye. I mean, I was brought up on this stuff and even I wouldn’t touch chopped liver if you paid me (although I do have an addiction to matzo ball soup and want to try Palmer and Co’s one on my next visit).

The drinks menu is on steadier ground. There’s a ridiculous number of rums, gins, whiskies, wine, etc available, while the cocktail list is filled with classics such as the Blood and Sand as well as some specialities.

I try the Hollywood Sour, which is made with a hefty amount of Angostura bitters, Calvados, apple and lemon juice, as well as orgeat and vanilla syrup. It’s served in a coupe glass with grated nutmeg on top and I like it a lot – it’s almost a savoury, rather than fruity, drink with some nuttiness to it.

In short (and to be frank, to my surprise) I like Palmer and Co a lot. I mean, I usually end up complimenting Merivale bars on their execution but as regular drinking haunts they’re not usually not my cup of sazerac – but Palmer and Co is good. Actually, it’s great. Hell, it might even give Baxter Inn a run for its money.

Palmer and Co, Abercrombie Lane, Sydney. Open Monday to Saturday until late, check out the Palmer and Co website

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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Palmer and Co?

5 Comments Palmer and Co – Sydney CBD

  1. Rhys

    Mr Kaufman!

    As a regular reader of your reviews I was a little disappointed to see you of all people have been sucked in by Merivale Marketing & PR Team (a 50 strong team if you count consultants).

    The whole idea of the Small Bar movement is that they’re owner operated i.e.: Shirt bar / The Corridor / Stitch / Baxter / Button / Grasshopper / Freda’s / etc….

    Mr H has as always with deep pockets, copied the Baxter Inn. The different is $$ and the FACT Merivale venues have NO soul will never be able to compete with Baxter and what is represents which is everything that Merivale isn’t.

    Any of us can do a fit out with Dad’s $300M and a loan from the bank for another $300M (in case).

    The Merivale Model is Dead and people are sick of this little spoilt rich boy.

  2. Michelle

    I was in Palmer & co last night. Absolutely beautiful room and fit out. The problem though is soul. The bartender who served me was not only rude, but decided he was good enough to throw my change straight into the tip jar without offering it back to me – I would have left it anyway but thats not the point! The music was mainly great, the jazz and blues were perfect for the venue, but punctuating it every third (yes third, this is no exaggeration) with Marvin Gaye was completely random and the odd disco track was very off putting.

    Also, like Rhys says, it’s easy to design a bar when you have so much money. Surely it also explains why he’s so rich when two shots of Jack and a beer cost you $29.50.

    All in all, it’s designed well, and pitched to a money making city market – maybe that’s why Mr Kaufman likes it.

  3. NorthOfTheBridge

    I completely agree with Rhys and Michelle.
    While Palmer & Co was executed to its interior designers idea of perfection it lacks warmth and soul.
    The tile on brick combination and the nicknacks in glass cabnets leaves the room feeling sterile and cold. The bartender was knowledgeable and the waitresses were friendly – though I imagine the $$$ must have run out when it came to dressing the staff who looked cheap in their fake pearls and Supre drop waisted dresses.
    Palmer & Co is an impressive example of the the Hemmes bank account – but has none of the soul that makes a small bar and holds nothing to venues like Harlem (Manly), The Foxtrot (Crows Nest) and The Baxter (CBD).

  4. Dante

    Ditto, ditto and ditto.

    This bar has a phenomenally good drinks list and the fit out is very well-executed. With the Hemmes bank account, it would have been difficult not to create a well-appointed, well-stocked bar.

    In addition, I thought the waitresses were very friendly and the bar staff very professional as well (maybe Michelle had a bad night to go on).

    But the issue of ‘soul’ is inescapable. Why the bars mentioned above work so well isn’t just the booze, or the tunes, or decor, or even the staff(who have more style, fun and gregariousness than any Merivale apparatchik). It is that they are not so obviously paint-by-numbers.

    Palmer & Co is a classic example of knowing the price of everything and the value of nothing. Merivale have certainly ticked all the boxes in their ‘small bar checklist’ but the essence of new small bars is that they aren’t the result of a marketing & PR brainstorming session. The small bars that are so successful in Sydney are the result of months of sweat, blood and tears from dedicated, talented, personable, creative hospitality veterans. Yeah, they want to make money (who doesn’t) but equally important, they want to build a dream.

    I’ll probably be back to Palmer & Co. – hell, I’ll probably be back a lot as there are precious few decent places to drink after 1am – but I doubt I’ll ever love it.

  5. Bambi

    All this Merivale-bashing is just as boring as you seem to think their venues are. It is a typical fall-back attitude to disperse vitriol at any entity that represents anything other than the noble, scrappy under-dog, and I think this default disdain has clouded appreciation of Palmer & Co. for what it is, instead of who it’s owned by. The bar is gorgeous and, while the speakeasy concept is a little tired, they’ve pulled it off with trademark Merivale quirk that sets it apart from and a few tiers above the standard ‘vintage throwback’ model.

    I think that responsibility for a venue’s ‘soul’ rests as much with the patrons as it does with the bar itself, so maybe if we can drop the holier-than-thou attitudes we can relax enough to nestle into one of Palmer & Co.’s little corners and possibly even enjoy ourselves.

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