There’s a great subterranean bar in Darlinghurst that has sandstone walls, alcoves and an old record player that’s often rotating blues and jazz LPs (they also sometimes squeeze an actual jazz band into one of its tiny corners). It’s called Downtown and is the downstairs bar of The Commons, a wine bar/restaurant that used to be called The Pond. Now, there’s nothing confusing about all that, is there?
The Pond was a pop-up bar operated by Pure Blonde and when that sponsorship ended the operators kept the bar going under the new name of The Commons.
To a large degree the place feels the same but it has grown into itself – for example, while the emphasis before was obviously on beer, what attracts me now are the old-school cocktails which, like the music here, are meant to reflect a pre-1950s era.
I go on a Friday night with my Fijian bodyguard, who orders the Oh Harry! (whiskey, raspberry syrup, lemon and orange bitters) while I opt for the Harvard Cocktail (Hennessey VS cognac, sweet vermouth, sugar, angostura bitters, and a few drops of lemon oil squeezed from a peel).
Both cocktails are smooth and well made. The Harvard is great – a classic cognac cocktail (cognac is fast becoming my favourite spirit) and the Fijian is happy with his prohibition-era Oh Harry!, which isn’t a cocktail you can easily find.
They’ve also got a decent wine selection here – the second last time I visited I had a good local Malbec – as well as beers such as White Rabbit White Ale and the Lord Nelson Three Sheets.
With its candle-lit back bar, bookshelf, piano and old wooden tables, this is a cosy old fashioned bar that’s become one of my favourites. And, if you can’t get a seat, you can always grab a conciliatory glass of wine in the upstairs courtyard.
Downtown at The Commons. 32 Burton Street, Darlinghurst. See the Downtown website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Downtown?