Courtyard setting: Bakerman offers diners and drinkers a relaxing, intimate night out in Erskineville. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
Sydney is a city of villages, and few of them are more pleasant to spend time in than Erskineville. Sometimes it's hard to believe you're just metres from King Street and less than five kilometres from the city centre.
A spate of openings has not detracted from Erko's village-like feel. Antoun Jabbour has extended the opening hours of his popular bakery and traded brownies for beers, joining Hive Bar, Kuki Tanuki, Shenkin and solid local pubs, the Erko Hotel and Rose of Australia, to create a beaut little night-time vibe.
Jabbour reckons he's got the best spot of the lot - a tranquil courtyard under a huge tree that is baked in sunlight during the day and decked in fairy lights and a crisp chill after dark.
There are only a couple of tables inside, however heaters keep the outside tables warm and there are blankets draped over the chairs should you be game enough to brave the cold.
After seven years of baking pastries and pouring coffees, it was a natural progression for Bakerman to move to hearty Continental beers and delicious wines. The tapas here are nice but it's the beer and wine that make this place special.
''It's very European,'' Jabbour says. ''We really enjoy beer and we thought, why should we be restricted to just a cafe?''
The very friendly beer man, Peter Week, has put together a great list of European brews, from the absurdly drinkable Austrian pilsner Stiegl on tap ($6.50) to a beautifully light and sweet Bellerose Blonde from France ($11) and the strong, dark Chimay Blue Belgian ale ($13). Some come with their own theatrics, like the Belgian Kwak amber ale ($12), served in a traditional lantern holder once used to skirt prohibition laws. It's a fascinating beer menu I could drink my way through time and again.
From the small wine list, the Di Fabio Estate 2010 grenache shiraz from McLaren Vale ($9) warms me up in no time. It is light, smooth as velvet and a little too easy to drink.
A list of cocktails covers classics such as hazelnut caipiroskas, French martinis and carafes of sangria. The honey mint julep ($14) is nice, but I'd recommend sticking with the fabulous beers and wine.
French chef Alice Belliard has created an international tapas menu with a bit of everything. Asian-style chilli prawns with coriander, lime and garlic ($14.50) sit rather incongruously alongside succulent slices of chorizo with labne ($12.50), Margherita pizzas ($13.50), a Middle Eastern board of dips and kibbe ($24) and some mushroom croquettes ($13.50).
Chunks of beetroot in Stiegl batter ($8.50) were heavy and gluggy but oh, so good. Wagyu sliders on brasserie brioche with soft kumera chips ($21) are the pick of the bunch, along with the rotating selection of stellar desserts, as you might expect, considering their patisserie roots.
Bakerman is not a late-night destination. Even on a Friday and Saturday night, it's a quiet spot full of well-behaved drinkers and diners. It's relaxing, cute and a lovely reprieve from the hustle and bustle of the inner city.
YOU'LL LOVE IT IF … you want a quiet few beers in a lovely neighbourhood.
YOU'LL HATE IT IF … you're looking for hustle and bustle.
GO FOR … Stiegl on tap, Kwak, wagyu sliders.
- 02 8090 0204
- Cuisine - Tapas
- Prices - Beer by the glass $6.50-$13, wine by the glass $7-$14, cocktails $9-$16, tapas $7-$14.50.
- Features - Outdoor seating, Bar
- Chef(s) - Alice Belliard
- Owners - Antoun Jabbour
- Opening Hours - Mon-Tue, 6am-5pm; Wed-Sun, 6am-11pm
- Author - Rachel Olding