What’s interesting is that it isn’t a shirt store that just happens to sell alcohol and coffee on the side (which is what I expected before I saw it for myself) but an unusual hybrid of all the above. While it does feel more like a store and cafe during the day, at night the lights dim and it feels like a whisky bar – albeit one where, when you get lipstick on your collar, you can quickly buy a new shirt before going home.
I ought to come here more often.
(Ok, I just said that to sound dashing. We all know I live alone with my cat and broken dreams).
But I digress.
When I walk in on a Thursday night, after being cruelly thrown out of a different bar beforehand (turns out the managers weren’t happy with an article I’d written in the past), I slump on one of the leather stools that line Shirt Bar’s galvanised steel counter and order a Glenfiddich Solera 15-year-old single malt ($16).
The beauty of a single malt is that it can cure most troubles and the Glenfiddich 15 is like a liquid therapist. I normally like my single malts to be more distinctive in flavour but when you just need an easy-to-drink scotch with a little character then this is perfect.
As you’d expect from a shirt store, there’s a manly feel about the place. The bar counter is padded with leather, there are leather sofas and metal tables with metal chairs, an exposed brick wall is at one end and an old Singer sewing machine is propped up on a table. Soul and blues music is playing, the staff wear crisp shirts, and there’s art on the wall (supplied by a gallery called Urban Uprising) and candlelight.
Food wise there are salumi and cheese platters and while the drink focus is on whisky (the most expensive drop is a $50 shot of 25-year-old Chivas), there’s also a selection of tequila, rum (next time I’m here I’ll try the Ron Zacapa Centenario 23 for $18), Peroni, champagne as well as two cocktails – a mint julep served in the traditional pewter cup ($18) as well as an espresso martini (I don’t try this but I’ve never been a fan of espresso martinis. I tend to either want to be sedated or caffeinated – not both).
As I slump and slurp at my whisky I notice a couple sitting on the stools next to me who offer me some of their salumi platter out of sympathy. Before they can change their mind, I start scoffing down hunks of meat while grasping at this moment of human contact in order to tell them about my inhumane ordeal at the last bar. They then tell me they’re the co-owners of Shirt Bar and no doubt start wondering what kind of an article I’m going to write about them if I got kicked out of the last place I was in.
The other co-owner is Adam Hofbauer, who not only pours the whisky here but is a barista who blends the beans and is behind Fat Coffee. He tells me that his coffee is as much of an obsession for him as whisky and so when I come in the next day to take a photo I also try the coffee – and it’s good. Actually (and I’m not just saying this because I got a few hunks of free salami – sadly, I’ve yet to be given free whisky in return for one of my sad tales, although I’m working on it) it’s great coffee. It’s coffee you ought to try for yourself so you know I’m not just saying this out of salami guilt.
And that’s my shitty way of ending this review. Actually, I should also mention that Shirt Bar is next door to Balcony Bar and Small Bar on Sussex Lane (which is on the other side of Erskine Street), so it’s nice to see that strip evolve for drinkers like me.
Ok, that was an even worse ending. Screw it. I’ve got the DVD of Fight Club that I paused to write this review and I want to get back to it. This will do.
Update: Shirt Bar has started doing spirit tastings every month as part of what it calls Scotch Club – you can email them at email@example.com for more info.
Shirt Bar, Sussex Lane, Sydney, see the Shirt Bar website. Open Monday to Wednesday until 6pm, Thursday and Friday until 10pm, and closed on the weekends.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Shirt Bar?