Even by small bar standards The Owl House is tiny. Located on Crown Street just a few minutes from Stanley Street, The Owl House is a dark narrow space with a long wooden counter, bar stools and … well, that’s about it for seating, except for an upstairs restaurant area. And since I, my Fijian bodyguard and any self-respecting man would always prefer a bar stool over a table, we’re pretty happy about this.
Not that I should discriminate – after all, as we sit down we realise that most of the customers sitting at the counter are attractive women. However, since my bodyguard has now found his true love and I, of course, have my beloved cat, we focus on the drinks instead.
My bodyguard orders the Passage to India, made with rum, Poire Williams (a pear brandy), pineapple juice, pear puree, cinnamon, chilli and salt dust ($17). I think this sounds like a girly drink (although I’m too scared to tell the Fijian this) but it turns out to be good. Really good. Served in a martini glass, it’s a drink with texture where the subtle pear flavours hold everything together while the spices add interest.
I order the Blood and Sand ($19), which happens to be one of my favourite classic cocktails. Made with freshly squeezed orange juice (I can see the juicer behind the bar, which is always a good sign), Peter Heering cherry brandy, sweet vermouth and whisky, this is a good rendition – strong, not too sweet, with the OJ giving it freshness.
Atmosphere wise, The Owl House feels like a 1970s Manhattan bar (or at least how I imagine a 1970s Manhattan bar would feel): funk music is playing, there’s a kerosene lamp at one end, the bar counter is made from solid wooden beams that sit under a glass top, and the place has a flickering red glow thanks to the neon sign on the stairs and the candles set in holes in the exposed brick wall.
The food here is largely of the tapas variety – think dumplings, sashimi, and chorizo and manchego croquettes – plus there’s the aforementioned upstairs area for those who like sitting at tables. The Fijian and I, however, are happy where we are – after all, as bar flies we appreciate the simple joy of sitting at a bar counter, a place where the bottles are only metres away, the bar staff can hear your cries for liquor and where the hardest decision you face is what to order next. I think I’ll opt for The Passage to India.
The Owl House, 97 Crown Street, Darlinghurst. Open Tuesday to Saturday until midnight. See The Owl House website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate The Owl House?