When I first moved to the north shore after living in the inner west for 17 years, all my friends – without exception – told me I was making a mistake.
“Why?” they kept asking. “Why would you do that?”
I did it out of desperation – my slum building was being torn down and I moved into the first place that would take me and my cat – but instead I told people that the inner west was for suckers and that if you truly wanted darkness and despair then you had to move to the north. After all, as any David Lynch or John Waters fan knows, true debauchery can only survive in the well-heeled burbs. In the inner city it’s mere posturing.
I’m saying all this because when I go to Wilcox, a new small bar that’s opened in Cammeray, I’m desperately hoping to find Dennis Hopper and Isabella Rossellini in a corner, drinking martinis while dancing to 1950s Americana. Instead, however, I find men in sweater vests and boat shoes talking to women who could have stepped out of a Country Road ad. Newtown and Glebe, this is not.
To compensate for the clean cut clientele I order a dirty martini – or, more specifically, Wilcox’s variation on this classic: the Filthy Martini.
Made with gin, pickle brine (instead of olive brine, which a dirty martini usually calls for) and vermouth, this is beautifully made and for the first few sips hits the spot nicely. The pickle brine adds a sweetness that a normal or dirty martini doesn’t usually have, however, and as someone who does not have a sweet tooth I found myself wishing after a while that the pickle brine would magically transmogrify into olive brine. Or more gin.
Wilcox also makes a vodka variant with caper brine, but since a martini not made with gin is an abomination, I shall not dwell on that and move on – especially as the cocktail list has plenty of other drinks that catch my eye (the next time I’m here I’ll try the banana split old fashioned, or the maple syrup sour).
In fact there’s a lot going for this place, such as:
- the bar service is friendly and I can tell that the staff know how to handle a shaker
- the bar stools around the marble-topped counter make this a place I can go back to perch, despite the boat shoe clientele, plus there are small tables up the front and larger tables down the back for those who want to eat (they have a fully fledged kitchen pumping out fancy schmancy pasta dishes, and … I don’t know. Other things you can stick in your gob)
- the exposed brick walls and Edison bulbs give it that small bar feel but they didn’t go overboard by adding kitsch
- you can hear yourself think (in fact, no music is playing as I perch at the bar).
In short, Wilcox doesn’t offer the spooky, creepy, sinister vibe that I love in a bar – but the drinks, layout and service make this worth checking out.
Oh yes: beer lovers might want to know they have White Rabbit on tap.
Wilcox, 463 Miller Street, Cammeray. Open Tuesday to Sunday, check out the Wilcox Facebook page for more details.