The best part about Stitch, a small basement bar on York Street, is the entrance. There’s a shop front on street level filled with sewing machines, balls of yarn and shirts hanging on a rod – as well as a stairwell heading down. Take a step into the shop front and you can then see a glimpse of the sumptuous bar downstairs, with all the promise that those shelves of bottles glowing from the back bar’s light can bring.
It’s this specific moment I enjoy most about my visit – the promise of something unusual, decadent and hidden from view. Call me a fantasist but as I head downstairs on a Saturday night my imagination works overtime. I imagine exotic women with a fetish for alcoholic bar reviewers, a piano man tinkling the ivories and a wizened old bartender who’ll listen to my troubles while making me Manhattans.
It turns out there is no piano man and the bartenders here are young (what happens to old Sydney bartenders? Considering how young they all are, it’s as if they live in an alcoholic version of Logan’s Run, where any barperson over 30 is swiftly dispatched) but the bar has got an old fashioned and quirky feel nevertheless.
The bar counter is seemingly made from old sewing machines stacked on top of each other while sewing machine covers dangle from above the back bar. The light fixtures look like they came from a western saloon, sheet music is used as wallpaper in one area, there are booths as well as small barrel tables and blues music is playing on the sound system.
The blues fits my mood since I’ve been stood up not once but twice by two people today, which must surely push my loser quotient to new heights. As such I perch dejectedly on a bar stool, order a sazerac and begin telling one of the friendly bartenders about how a man can only trust his cat in this world. In turn she smiles politely and no doubt starts hoping I’ll drink my sazerac quickly and get the hell out of here.
The menu lists the sazerac as being made with Hennessy cognac, sugar and Peychaud’s bitters served in an absinthe-rinsed glass, but I see the other bartender using Pernod instead (when I ask, he tells me they’ve run out of absinthe).
The result is still good, however, (if I wanted to be fernickety I’d argue the aniseed flavour is fractionally stronger than I’d like in a sazerac, but it’s still a great rendition) and I’m always happy to see a traditional sazerac on a cocktail menu.
Talking of menus, the kitchen here offers gourmet hotdogs and burgers – for example, one of their meals is the Mack Ducky Dog, made with duck, orange and pistachio sausage served with foie gras canard and truffle sauce. I’m tempted to order a dog but I’m worried my cat will become jealous, so I finish my solitary sazerac, tell the bartender that my faithful feline awaits, and head back up the stairs into reality.
UPDATE: I’ve since come back several times. First of, if you order a cocktail then I recommend either the Romeo Had Juliette (made with Amaro Montenegro, pineapple juice, Angostura bitters, Hennessy cognac and lemon juice) or the Bitter Tears (made from Makers Mark bourbon, grapefruit marmalade, honey syrup and orange bitters and served short with a sugar rim). The former is tangy and tart, while the latter is my favourite cocktail in this bar. I’m not sure how to describe the flavour – you can taste the orange bitters, the tang of the marmalade, and the sweetness coupled with the citrus and bourbon results in a taste that reminds me of the fizzy sour lolly drops of my youth. I like it.
I’ve also tried the hotdogs: the French Poodle ($17) is made with Toulouse sausage, red wine and garlic and served with pickled pear and Dijon mustard while the Wild Pig Dog (also $17) is made with wild boar sausage that has spiced apple and and rum-soaked currants in it. Both are awesome.
Stitch Bar, 61 York Street, Sydney. Open Monday to Saturday, 4pm until late. See the Stitch Bar website)
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Stitch Bar?