Except when burlesque artists strip to their garter belts for the Dr Sketchy’s art school nights (which involves drinking and sketching a burlesque artist – this usually happens every second Tuesday) there’s not much drawing going on in the Arthouse, a multi-level bar that used to be an art school.
The ground floor is the main drinking den, filled with paintings and an after-work CBD crowd downing beers and wines, but it’s the Dome lounge on the first floor that impresses me – or, more specifically, some of the cocktails on offer there.
To be honest, I wasn’t expecting much and so when the barman suggested a Peruvian pisco sour (which is yet to go on the menu, but I’ve been told it will be soon), I was expecting the same disappointment I usually have when ordering this South American drink that hails from Chile and Peru.
Instead, however, I’m served a fantastic drink. The pisco sour is traditionally made with pisco, a South American spirit made from grapes, lemon juice, sugar and egg whites, but this version uses a dark Peruvian plum brandy instead as well as gomme syrup and a few drops of bitters splashed onto the foam. The result is spicy and has a great balance of sweetness and sourness to it. For $12, which is the price of all the cocktails here, it’s also great value.
The Dome Lounge is tucked away at one end of the first floor next to the restaurant. The building is heritage listed and has some grand features, including the dome in the middle of the high ceiling (hence the bar’s name) as well as a glass tiled floor near the restaurant. The decor, meanwhile, is colourful, from the walls covered with paintings right down to the brightly-coloured armchairs.
The crowd tonight is largely young, with a lot of female office types, and the soundsystem is playing folk and world music.
My dining companion sticks to her peach bellini (which is good as far as bellinis go, although I’ve never been a fan myself) while I then order the Vesper martini and some tapas.
Both the dips and the lamb and fennel meatballs (served with tzatziki) are good, but it’s the spinach and cheese empadillas that stand out – nice, fresh spinach and cheese piling out of flaky pastry.
The Vesper martini, made with Bombay gin, belvedere vodka and lillet blanc, is almost as good as the Pisco sour. It’s so smooth you can barely taste the alcohol in it and is served stirred rather than shaken (even though it’s named after a martini that James Bond invented in Ian Fleming’s Casino Royale).
Those after an even less alcoholic-tasting drink, however, might prefer the vanilla rhubarb sour, which tastes like it sounds – strong flavours of rhubarb, vanilla and sour mix (it’s made with Absolut vanilla vodka, licor 43 and rhubarb). However, if I do come back to the Arthouse then it would definitely for the Pisco Sour – and, being a dirty old perve, perhaps Dr Sketchy’s.
Arthouse, 275 Pitt Street, Sydney. See the Arthouse website or phone 9284 1200.
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate the Arthouse?