Update: I’m sad to report that Stanley Street Station is no more. Last time I walked past (22 May 2011) it was taken over by a place called The Crown Bar and Grill)
I’m sitting at the bar counter, 50s music playing in the background, when I notice something out of the corner of my eye – and there, lying near the coffee machine, is a miniature scene of a train wreck complete with little people, smaller than my thumbnail, lying bloodied on the ground around it.
In some ways this quirky little scene sums up Stanley Street Station, a new bar and restaurant that’s more than it initially seems. Straddling the corner of Crown and Stanley Streets it initially looks like a large, slick venue, with the kitchen and dining area up the front and some sofas down the back. Yet the more you look the more you notice interesting details, such as the eclectic local art on the walls, the mini TV screens showing movie scenes, the bookcase down the back filled with board games and a range of glass terrariums dotted around with little people suffering inside them.
It’s a Friday night and I’m sipping some Monredon (a nice light-bodied red with berry flavours) with the Amazonian Croatian. We’re soon told a table is ready for us and we’re led to one up the front with a great view of the street – perhaps too good a view, since within minutes I notice two girls standing outside poking their fingers at us before I realise one is a student of mine (when I’m not testing my liver for Bar Zine I teach at uni). I shake my fist at her angrily and she soon skulks away.
The meals here are affordable – most mains cost $24 or less – but the entrees intrigue us and so we order the pink lamb rump with balsamic onions and goat labne and the (take a deep breath) pumpkin, macadamia and boule sourdough with white truffle and pumpkin paste, anchovy tapenade and olive oil.
The latter was the Croatian’s idea and while I only order it to humour her the white truffle and pumpkin paste is a knock-out – I’d be happy making my entire meal out of spreading that on the bread (which has a nice nuttiness to it).
The lamb is a vegetarian’s nightmare, with a generous portion of beautifully pink meat covered with caramelised onions, and it’s fantastic – tender and yet with strong flavours. We also grab the South Australian mussels with coriander, tomato, white wine, basil, chilli and saffron and I’m impressed to see giant mussels in a broth where you can see the actual saffron threads floating around them.
To chase all this down we try the cocktails – I go for the Mr Dubord (vodka, cloudy apple juice and St Germain elderflower liqueur served tall with fresh mint) while the Amazonian has the Mulata Martini (lime juice, white rum, cocoa bean liqueur and a dash of Fee Brothers orange bitters).
Our favourite of the two is undoubtedly the Mr Dubord. With fresh, clean flavours that avoid being too sweet, this is great if you like mojitos and it’s a cocktail I’d love to have again.
The Croatian likes her Mulata Martini but I think it tastes a bit like Jaffas (which I’ve never liked). However, if you like strong orange flavours then you might agree with the Croatian rather than myself.
I do love the desserts, however – the panna cotta with berry compote is fantastic and the lemon tart’s good (and I don’t normally like lemon tarts). I also recommend the Gibson 2009 Pinot Gris from South Australia.
In short, Stanley Street Station is an impressive addition to the area. If you’re looking for good food and drinks in a casual yet arty environment then it’s worth popping in.
Stanley Street Station, 85A Stanley Street (on the corner of Crown Street), East Sydney. Phone 9331 5375 or see the Stanley Street Station website
Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Stanley Street Station?