Martin Place Bar is a bit of a chameleon. On a Wednesday night the front bar is quiet enough, on Thursday night Martin Place Bar is pumping with a DJ, and on Friday night tables in the first half on the spacious sports bar are removed as it is standing room only. On any night the main bar is filled with finance suits. Mostly, it is schooners in hand.
Beyond the suits, there is a secret. At the back of the cavern is the magic of Aladdin with marvellous cocktails from a back bar that showcases top shelf choices of spirits: whisky, gin, Cognac, Armagnac, tequila...
Chatting with Italian bartender Eduardo, perched on a stool at the bar, I asked him which of the cocktails on the list were his. So, I started with Cocorita ($20) 1800 coconut tequila shaken with passionfruit, fresh chilli and lime juice. It comes as mild, moderate or hot- your choice. I sat in the middle ground, and I liked it. No sooner had I started sipping tequila than I spied my favourite gin, The Botanist (Islay, Scotland). So, next up was a Botanist martini- always stirred, if you are interested.
Drinking cocktails can make a girl hungry, so while perched at the bar we ordered bar snacks. Something simple we thought. Something seafood. Then I was blown away from one of the best Sydney versions of fish and chips that I have eaten. As a bar snack, 'Coopers' beer battered fish and chips, is incredibly tasty and an incredibly low ten bucks. Wowsers. And not only were the fish pieces, crisp on the outside, moist and delicious on the inside, the tartare was generously brimming with all the good pickled pieces. Like most food at Martin Place Bar, the tartare mayonnaise is house made. The prawn tostados were pretty bloody darn delicious too. Heading back for these again soon. For sure.
Because Martin Place Bar has more than the cocktail den, is more than a bar, is more than a pub, and is all things to all people, there are lots of menus from lunch to late night food: a lunch menu, an all day menu, a specials menu, the night snacks. Our snacks were so delicious we decided to skip moving on to dinner elsewhere and explore more.
As we ate the next round we chatted with Martin Place Bar owner and events manager Karen Anderson. Then the level of details in all things food and wine and cocktails made more sense. It seems, like the Moore Street Den, there is another Martin Place Bar secret. Karen Anderson was the one time Sydney Maître d' of the Year, when at the celebrated Treasury restaurant at the Hotel InterContinental, and then continued her high end dining days as a sommelier at other quality establishments in Sydney.
So. Time to take a look at the wine list. I was impressed particularly by the symbols highlighting aged Australian wines at reasonable prices, and biodynamic or organic wines. And there's loads of choices by the glass. We settle for Domain La Galantin rose by the bottle to accompany our last round of food at the table.
From looking at the menu, there are even bigger more mainstay mains, but too many to list here. Let me tempt you for the last of the cooler winter nights with a gorgeous house made lamb pie that was so delicious I ate it all, even after all the other food. Buttery pasty goodness captured soft chunks of flavoursome lamb, a rich enticing gravy surrounded it, topping a hearty helping of mash overflowing with peas. This is a star pub dish. Just right for those lads at the front with the schooners, still perfect for the punters at the back with cocktails or wine. Mmmm mmmm.
And desserts are just as generous and thoughtful. The plating of old school, a huge slice of rhubarb crumble cake, had more of the cinnamon topping down the centre, the ice cream in its own ramekin. This from snack to finish is good stuff.
Martin Place Bar is a great spot for quality pub food and a schooner. But don't forget the secret at the far end of the room. Moore Street Den takes its name from the original street name of Martin Place, or so I'm told. I love that name, but it didn't matter what the cocktail lounge was called because I just loved the cocktails.