Bloody good stopover … Bottleneck Bar & Eatery is quirky, convenient and cozy. Photo: Sahlan Hayes
SOME THINGS IN LIFE WERE meant to be together and after a trip to Bottleneck, I'm convinced Bloody Marys and meatballs are among them.
Sven Almenning and his team, who own Eau de Vie and the Roosevelt, have opened their third small bar in the hallway of the Kirketon Hotel, a casual bar-eatery that specialises in spicy Bloody Marys, juicy meatballs and rotating brews.
That's right, it's in a hallway. A tiny alcove halfway between the Darlinghurst Road footpath and Eau de Vie down the back of the Kirketon Hotel has been done up like a rustic kitchen in a cute B&B.
Dark-wood panelling, hanging pot plants, weathered furniture and some creepy taxidermy create a mini homestead in the middle of the city.
Space is used wisely, with some seats at the bar, skinny kissing booths - complete with black curtains to draw across - and a large communal table.
They've done a stellar job transforming a hallway into a calm little oasis but, still, it's a hallway. With people wandering up and down all night long, it feels like a stopover rather than a destination.
Nevertheless, there's plenty to make your short stopover worthwhile.
The simple menu is something I would expect to find in an American log cabin. It's a small collection of picklebacks, rustic beers, house-made sodas, Bloody Marys and hearty home-style food such as meatballs and thick-cut bread with gravy butter - all of which is very reasonably priced.
For starters, the Bloody Marys are bloody good. An original one (vodka, tomato, carrot, celery, lemon, spices, pickled veg, $16) is laced with fantastic spices.
For something a little more intense, there's also a Snapper (gin, sherry, cynar, sherry vinegar, lemon, tomato, spices, pickled artichoke, $16) or Maria (tequila, tomato, carrot, celery, hot sauce, pickled veg, lemon, mezcal float, $16). Just wait for the harsh hit of sherry vinegar to cut through the spices or the smoky punch of mezcal. It's a fiesta in your mouth.
The Marys are washed down with the meatballs, which is a throwback to Almenning's childhood in Scandinavia.
Grass-fed beef balls are the first choice ($9) and a chalkboard extols a rotating list of specials including pork and nduja or pork and porcini. The chalk graffiti on the walls says what's on my mind: I heart balls. They're tasty little things smothered in grana padano and rich tomato sauce.
Other than that, brews are sourced from small guys such as 4 Pines and Murrays, and wines cover some weird and wonderful drops such as a deliciously smooth 2010 Rio Mendoza malbec ($12).
Of the two cocktails by the bottle, the American Trilogy (rye, applejack, orange bitters, sugar, $15) is sublime with a sweet smell of rich chocolate and tangy orange, with a huge chunk of chipped ice that gradually dilutes the strong rye flavour.
All the outstanding drinks and food keep us here for a couple of hours and there are plenty of others having a quiet drink and a yarn around us, but there's still an inevitable urge to move on from the hallway to something more permanent.
Bottleneck feels like a place to pop into before dinner, during the night for a late snack or even after dinner for dessert and an aperitif.
Almenning pictures it as becoming a ''nice little neighbourhood gem''. I'll be stopping in the neighbourhood many more times for my Mary and meatball fix.
You'll love it if … you're a Bloody Mary lover.
You'll hate it if … you want somewhere to settle in for the night.
Go for … Bloody Mary, grass-fed beef balls, American Trilogy.
- 02 9357 2470
- Prices - Bloody Marys $16, snacks $5-$9, bottled beer $8-$29, wine by the glass $11-$12
- Owners - Sven Almenning
- Opening Hours - Mon-Wed, 4-10pm; Thurs-Fri, noon-midnight; Sat, 4pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding