Despite the flurry of bar activity in the city centre, George Street has remained the Teflon of the small-bar revolution. The little guys haven't seemed game (or stupid?) enough to take on the drab main drag that has a bit of everything and yet nothing in particular. While Assembly is not quite on George Street (it's in the Regent Place mall that spans a couple of levels between George and Kent streets), I'm quietly rejoicing that I finally have somewhere nice to go for a pre-Metro show drink or an ''I'm in the middle of the city but I've got no idea where to go'' moment.
REGENT PLACE IS AN INTERESTING SPACE that has never really become a people-friendly, free-flowing hub, despite housing hidden gems such as the Azuma patisserie and a Misschu dumpling cart. Once inside Assembly, however, it's hard to believe you're in an awkward, fluorescent-lit mall. This newbie from ex-Pocket Bar general manager Ben Taouss ticks all the small-bar boxes: dimly lit, funky, noisy and decorated with that cool, quirky just-thrown-together aesthetic.
IT'S NOT A HUGE SPACE but a clever loft area (accessed via a stiletto-snaring spiral staircase) makes it surprisingly roomy. Taouss has assembled the industrial-chic bar using recycled bits and bobs such as a century-old bridge as a bar top, vintage apple crates from a Victorian farm to house spirits behind the bar, wooden forklift pallets as room dividers and entrance lamps from an old bomb-making factory in France. Outside, back in ugly fluorescent land, there's a beer garden with faux grass, beach umbrellas and fairy lights.
THE COCKTAILS ARE THE MAIN ATTRACTION, with pages of beautifully crafted creations giving me cocktail-list anxiety. Too much choice and - at up to $19 a pop - not enough money. There are classics with a twist (such as a great Dark and Stormy served in a small stein with half a lime, $17), Assembly creations and a list of drinks created by spirits brand ambassadors from Sydney. I have a killer Citroen Sour (Ketel One Citroen, lemon juice, lemon curd, passionfruit, orange bitter, $18) created by the brand ambassador of the year for Diageo Reserve Brands, Robb Sloan, and a For Shizzle My Treacle (Appelton rum, angostura, pear puree, white chocolate foam, cinnamon powder, chipped ice, $19), a fabulously made Assembly creation with a white chocolate foam I could eat a bucket of. Both are a little scant for the price but the skill and quality of spirits are top-notch.
THE WINES ARE UNDERWHELMING but they cover a decent range of Australian and international drops and have some user-friendly descriptions. The Glaetzer Wallace shiraz grenache from the Barossa ($12) mixes old vines and new techniques and will make you forget the stresses of the day quickly. A few sparklings and boutique beers round out the drink offerings.
FOOD SHOULDN'T BE FORGOTTEN and despite a small menu, it's got enough good stuff to justify being considered as a dinner spot, too. We wolf down a couple of well-priced hot dogs (the so-bad-but-so-good pork dog with truffle, cheese sauce and potato shoestrings, $10, and a tame chilli pork dog with toffee onions, chimichurri and chilli, $9), the Crab with a Kick (light and fresh crab meat, avocado and wasabi on sourdough, $14) and an uninspiring beetroot salad with candied walnuts ($14). The food, grog and cool after-work vibe hit the spot and I find myself assembled here again the next night.
YOU’LL LOVE IT IF you’re looking for a new after-work drinks spot.
YOU’LL HATE IT IF you don’t have much to spend.
GO FOR A For Shizzle My Treacle, gourmet hot dogs, classic cocktails with a twist.
IT’LL COST YOU cocktails $16-$19, wine by the glass $7.50-$12, hot dogs $9–$10.
Address Regent Place, entrance via 488 Kent Street, city, 9283 8808
Open Mon-Fri, noon-midnight; Sat, 5pm
- (02) 9283 8808
- Opening Hours - Monday-Saturday noon-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding