"I. Love. This Bar".
High praise indeed from Sydney Scoop's editor-in-chief Rebecca Varidel, who certainly has the palate and expertise to grant gravitas to her opinion, having sipped her way through most highly acclaimed bars and restaurants in Sydney.
And it appears the experts aren't the only ones who are impressed - before too long on this Wednesday night almost every seat in the bar is full.
So what is it about Moya's Juniper Lounge that sets itself apart from the throng as one of Sydney's hottest bars of the moment?
To start, it's the balance between sophistication and warmth in the atmosphere, with retro armchairs and low-lying coffee tables, a dimly lit, romantic interior where you'll ponder the menu by candlelight, a gentle soundtrack of non intrusive tunes that vary from jazz to blues to meditative soundscapes. And it's how more than once per week this soundtrack is provided by a live band, whose tunes intertwine delectably with the venue's vibe without disrupting the beautiful illusion that all this is unfolding in the lounge room of a friend's house.
It's the personal greeting offered to every visitor, with an unhurried sincerity no matter how full the venue may be.
And, of course, it's about the booze.
Moya's is a Sydney gin lover's dream. Be sure to take a seat at the bar to peruse the current gin collection (which is now in the hundreds) from which the staff will be only to delighted to recommend a bottle to match your tastes.
The first 30 bottles that stocked the back bar came from co-owner Charlie Casben's personal collection - gins from around the world he had picked up while travelling, several of which would be irreplaceable once the bottle was empty. Now the collection spans multiple full length shelves behind the bar, including an impressively wide range of both local and international flavours.
There's no gin list currently - partly due to the constant evolution of the collection, and partly a more personal intention, Casben explains. Without their options spelled out on paper, drinkers must approach staff for information and recommendations. He tells us it's about fostering interaction, but we suspect it's also a little bit of a reflection of how these folks are so passionate about their spirits that they want to ensure everyone is given the chance to be guided in discovering their perfect gin.
A cocktail list, however, there certainly is. And my, what a glorious list it is. Each drink has a full page to itself, where Moya's own notes and recipes are preceded by historical tidbits, literary quotes... one even takes us down the pathway of grapefruit's effect on hepatic metabolism.
There are no modern concoctions here - the cocktail list has been devised from the team's dedicated research into classic cocktails throughout history. Why? Well, as they quite rightly point out, it sure seems a shame to ignore over 200 years of good recipes, especially when the current trend with Sydney bars is for innovative drinks and evolving seasonal menus. It's a nod of respect to the past, and evidence of Moya's dedication to good drinks.
Of course they'll modify and create recipes to guests' preferences, their refinement doesn't appear to extend to snobbery, though we do recommend you try their advice at least on a few of their favourites.
At Moya's their martini of choice is of the 1950s style - a three-to-one ratio of gin to vermouth, which is less heavy on the vermouth than the 1906 original, but significantly more so than the more modern incarnations of this classic. You'll get orange bitters or a lemon twist - not both - and they're more than happy to explain why one citrus is enough and adapt things to your palate. Just don't ask for vodka.
Casben is humble about his (impressive) knowledge and experience in food and drink, which only reveals itself upon provocation. That's Moya's though - so oozing with sophistication it doesn't need to show off.
Of course it's not just gin here - there's a thoughtfully eclectic wine list, plenty of good beers and they'll whip up all your classic cocktails. Food is simple yet refined - a one-page selection of cheeses, pickles and meats.
And there's no judgement for not ordering gin.
We'll say it - this is one of our picks for the best bar in Sydney right now.