Music on tap ... Mojo Record Bar. Photo: Edwina Pickles
BARS AIN'T JUST BARS anymore. Now we have bars in shirt shops, bars in laundromats, bars in barbers and, lo and behold, bars in record stores.
Daniel McManus and Jon Ruttan are livin' the dream. The pair used to bring a six-pack of Coopers into Mojo Music on York Street on Friday nights and just listen to music and shoot the breeze. Now they're doing it in their own basement across the road.
When Mojo Music shut down, they approached the owner and asked him to come on board with a new venture. And here we are.
Unsurprisingly, the music in this music bar is darn good. There's a small record shop out the front and a hidden bar down the back pumping out everything from the Rubens to Run-DMC. Rock, pop, blues, surf and psychedelia all get a run.
''We always tailor the vibe to the crowd that's in the bar at the time,'' McManus says.
Old record covers line the top of the bar and vintage posters hang from the walls, but it's not as grungy as you'd think - it's actually quite an elegant, Prohibition-style bar draped in red velvet and dim lights.
On Friday nights, it's manic. There are oodles of bartenders, all shouting at you, high-fiving each other and shaking cocktails vigorously. People are crammed into every corner and one of my compadres finds it all a bit much and has to escape to the much quieter record store. Saturdays and other weeknights are more chilled out.
McManus and Ruttan have made beers the main focus. The only mainstream one is Coopers - a nod to their Mojo Music days - and the rest are Australian craft brews. The excellent Newtown-brewed Young Henrys comes via an old-school handpump and others (such as the other great tiny Sydney brewery, The Grifter) come as huge two-litre growlers ($40).
Sixteen beers and three ciders come from as far as Berriedale, Tasmania (a Moo Brew Hefeweizen, $11), and as near as The Rocks (Lord Nelson Three Sheets pale ale, $8) and are all reasonably priced.
Wines are all Australian, too, but not as exciting. A 2011 Bourke Street pinot noir from Hilltops in NSW ($12) is beautiful, and the champagne is all the good French stuff.
The cocktails are a mixed affair. A bartender first whips up some creations of his own - including a blackberry bramble and a rum-based sour - having boasted jovially that he knows ''heaps more shit than what's on that menu''. They are all nice but could do with some more punch.
From the menu, a very bittersy I Lost My Rum in San Francisco (dark rum, Amaro Montenegro, Angostura bitters, orgeat, $18) is made with a beautiful foamy consistency, but others, such as the Fool's Gold (tequila, Aperol, limoncello, grapefruit, sugar rim, $18), are a bit ho-hum.
Ask the bartenders about their tequilas and whiskies, which aren't listed on the menu, and they'll blow the dust off something special such as an aged single malt or an Australian West Winds gin.
Food isn't a big deal - dips and share plates for the first half of the week, with the option of fries and pizzas from Taglio a few doors down on Thursdays and Fridays. The pizzas are delivered in their boxes and are delicious, with fluffy wood-fired crusts and stacks of cheese. It's a perfect accompaniment for this place: laid-back, original and plain old fun.
You'll love it if … you're scouting cool new small bars for after-work drinks.
You'll hate it if … you come with a big group on a Friday.
Go for … music, pizza and longies of Young Henrys.
- 02 9262 4999
- Prices - Wine by the glass $7-$12, bottled beer $7-$14, cocktails $18, pizzas $20.
- Owners - Daniel McManus , Jon Ruttan
- Opening Hours - Mon-Fri, 4pm-midnight; Sat, 5pm-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding