For reasons unknown, I came here expecting the worst. I think it's because I'm always sceptical of the hype. Everyone has been talking about Hunky Dory. All the cool people are coming here and, more often than not, I find the hyped places don't stack up when it comes to the food, the drinks and particularly the service. But I'm pleasantly surprised.
OCCUPYING A RUNDOWN TERRACE, the place is three skinny levels - a restaurant at the bottom, a bar, a DJ and a balcony on the middle floor and another bar and outdoor rooftop area upstairs, littered with old couches and tables channelling a mate's garage. It has a trendy converted-warehouse feel to it - rough brick walls and floors, unfinished surfaces and exposed concrete mix with elaborate chandeliers, ornate ceilings and a rather fancy menu. It's impossible to find room to swing a cocktail, let alone a table to sit down at, but by some miraculous act of the bar gods, we chance upon a group leaving and pinch their table on the middle-floor balcony overlooking Oxford Street.
WHAT SURPRISES ME AT FIRST is how good the cocktails are. Despite the crush of people at the bar, the bartenders don't rush them. Heaven forbid, they were also polite. Every sip of the Dory Blackberry Julep (Matusalem Platino white rum, blackberry, mint, $18) is bursting with the fresh, simple flavours of mint and fruit. Same with the Blue Mountain Dew (Belvedere, citron, TMD, St-Germain elderflower liqueur, lemon, $18). The Machelli comes with the description ''so crazy it just might work'' and its mix of Glenfiddich, Aperol, caramel, Grand Marnier and grapefruit ($18) does. It's not abounding in simple flavours like the other two but it's strong and smooth. The let-down is the Killer White Lady (Hendrick's, Cointreau, Mozart dry, lemon orange blossom, $18), which is a bit average and way too small for the $18 I fork out.
WHAT SURPRISES ME NEXT is the food. It comes via Bruno's, the restaurant downstairs, and is mostly pizzas, salads and Italian share plates. The pizzas - all with Italian toppings such as smoked mozzarella, speck (a juniper-flavoured ham) and formaggio - are seriously good. They're on a chunky home-made base and come out on wooden boards. The Hunky Dory (tomato, mozzarella and broccoli, $18) is good but the God Save the Queen (prosciutto cotto, mozzarella, tomato, fresh mushrooms, $18) is better. If we hadn't chowed down on so much pizza, the potato and garlic mayo ($8) or chicken wings with thyme and pepperoncini ($8) would have got a run as well.
BY 11PM ON A SATURDAY this place is packed. This is a bar to visit with a couple of pals and a little bit to spend - drinks aren't exactly RSL prices. Mind you, there are plenty of people getting well lubricated on beer and the wines, which are relatively well priced for a trendy bar. There is a handful by the glass - I like the rich and ripe 2009 Longhop Shiraz ($8) and the light 2010 Save Our Souls Rose´ ($8) - all on a menu that is hidden in a children's picture book. Cute. I leave on a good note - good drinks, good food, good company, not so good on the wallet but three out of four is not bad. It's enough to live up to the hype.
Hunky Dory Social Club
Address: 215 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst, 9331 0442
Open: Tue-Sun, noon-midnight
- 02 9331 0442
- Opening Hours - Tues-Sun, noon-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding