And we are into the new year with our first new blog review! I hope you had a wonderful silly season with your nearest and dearest – I know that personally I spent a lot of it out and about and so I am not feeling overwhelmingly rested and ready for my return to the office today… I spent Christmas up in Newcastle with the girlfriend Night Owl‘s family which was a completely novel experience; my family has never celebrated Christmas to a large extent – the most my Sister and I will do is exchange small gifts and then prepare for a big day of cardio at the Boxing Day sales…truly a bonding experience. But now she spends it with my brother in law’s family, and for the last year or two as a single lone wolf I’ve tended to spend it with a large bottle of moscato in front of the television.
The food, the atmosphere and the traditions around a family that celebrate Christmas are so different: the fact that all presents have to be deposited under the tree, waking up early to open your presents together even if you’re never a morning person, Christmas ham and mustard on toast on Christmas Day. I was particularly surprised as to how many presents I watched the families exchange – on talking with Night Owl’s aunt and uncle, Christmas is when more and bigger gifts are exchanged, while on the other hand I’ve been raised to prioritise birthdays over Christmas for that sort of extravagance.
I was thrilled with Night Owl’s Christmas present to me – a beautifully thought-out box of goodies which included the 2016 Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide; an unspoken promise, if you will, by her that we would continue our food adventures into the next year. There was certainly a surge over the rest of the year after meeting her delightful self, with her teaching me about appreciating cocktail mixology more while I excitedly showed her my favourite Sydney spots for a good bite and shared with her my enthusiasm for flavours and creativity.
Our different areas of passion work well together, particularly when we visit an incredible venue like Dead Ringer – the child prodigy of that internationally award-winning bar, Bulletin Place. Funnily enough, Bulletin Place was the bar Night Owl wanted to take me out to on our first date (tragically though it was closed on the Sunday night of our meet!).
Dead Ringer is nestled on a leafy strip in Darlinghurst, barely a three minute walk from the iconic Taylor Square at the top of Oxford Street, yet when you sit alfresco out the front of the venue you almost feel like you’re somewhere else entirely; some other city where people are out walking their Staffie puppies just before dusk, enviro-bags casually slung over their shoulders.
There’s a solid selection of classic small bar dishes on the daily-printed menu such as the ever-present cheese plate, parfait, olives and chips, as well as larger dishes to share which include roast chicken and barramundi. Having seen a few articles on social media recommending the Chicken Liver Parfait with Pickled Vegetables ($17) and the Beef Tartare with Pickled Cucumber and Potato Paper ($16), I go with these two choices and Night Owl trusts my judgment. We also order two starting cocktails, an Obligatory ($19) and a Garden Martini ($18).
My Obligatory was a combination of old tequila, cold drip and maple – the bar’s spin on the components of a classic Old Fashioned, if you will. After a long Monday in the office, this drink was a dream: coffee and tequila always go so well together. Night Owl was having a private moment with her Garden Martini with Botanica gin, vermouth and Benedictine, poured at our table and garnished with a misting spray of murraya perfume and three herbal oil drops to represent the olives of a martini. I was rolling my eyes at the whole procedure, but I do understand the showman-ship aspect of the whole thing. It’s interesting how bars are now attempting to engage more of the customer’s senses these days, much like fine dining restaurants where they pour consomme at the table or ask you to listen to an mp3 player with the sound of the sea while eating seafood (hello, Heston). It’s much better that you read Night Owl’s eloquent and succinct booze rundown on her blog here.
I loved my drink; but as usual I was much more interested in the food…
The Chicken Liver Parfait was beautifully creamy and quite sweet, served with charred bread for you to slather on the pate generously. I had been craving gherkins all day at work for some reason, so chowed down on the colourful pickles draped over the slab of pate – a combination of pickled peppers, carrots, baby cucumbers and radishes; each piece deliciously crunchy and zingy which cut through the richness of the pate.
It was hard to toss up which one was our favourite, the pate or the Beef Tartare. Stunningly plated, the succulent beef had been perfectly diced and mixed with the equally perfectly cut pieces of pickled cucumber, and what sat on top were delicate shards of potato paper – adding a unique textural crunch to the dish. It could have done with a touch more salt, but otherwise we found it well-seasoned; I caught an exotic whiff of truffle oil from the dish as we devoured it.
Not content to leave just yet, we decided to go another drink each and so requested that the friendly bar staff mix us up their interpretations of our favourites: an Old-Fashioned with rye for me and a Manhattan for Night Owl.
While it was a good drink, it didn’t come close to the best Old-Fashioned I’ve ever had at Black Pearl bar in Melbourne – considering it’s listed as No. 10 in the World’s 50 Best Bars, it’s a high standard to meet.
Dead Ringer is like that certain guest at the party: not the flashy, loud and cheerful socialite with the bright lipstick and maxi dress that likes to be in everyone’s face and share all of her recent gut-wrenchingly-hilarious stories, but it is the laid-back, well-mannered lady who can turn on a gentle amount of charisma to get you lingering around for a little longer – not to enjoy her company particularly, but to savour the atmosphere that her presence brings to the party.
413 Bourke Street
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9331 3560