Easy-breezy ... Sweethearts has a house party vibe. Photo: Steven Siewert
FOR A CITY THAT PRIDES ITSELF on sun-drenched beer gardens and alfresco partying, rooftop dining is only just coming into its own in Sydney. It's been a long, hard road to the rooftop, with grand plans stymied by complaints and bureaucracy.
The Sweethearts bar and barbecue atop the Sugarmill Hotel was a cool 12 months in the making, and even now it's hamstrung by a few niggly bits of red tape, such as the expensive acoustic panels and soundwall surrounding the open-air space.
But the venue is finally open, and it's a glorious place to be.
When you're four floors up from Darlinghurst Road, the riff-raff below seems far away. Here, it's all about the huge trees, fairy lights, fresh air and wide, open sky.
A huge open kitchen fills one end of the bar, and big tables, stools and relaxed seating fill the rest. It has an awesome casual vibe that suits any day or night.
The place runs in a cheap and cheerful way. You order drinks at the bar (or your table if it's quiet), grab a paper menu and tick the boxes of what you want from the ocker Aussie-themed barbecue - grilled skewers, barbecue seafood, big hunks of meat, breads, sides, ''rabbit food''; a long list of salt tubs and condiments; and house-made Cornettos and choc-tops for dessert. Some of the grub, cooked by ex-Pier and Manly Pavilion chef Robert Taylor, was fantastic - the barbecued salmon belly skewers ($16) fall off the stick in beautiful, soft sheets, and prawns on the barbie are slathered in delicious garlic butter ($30).
Others were not so stellar, such as the cotechino sausage with braised peppers in garlic ($20) that was heavy and gluggy.
The best approach is to go for basic meats such as black Angus sirloin or whole baby chicken, and try them with some of the different condiments - truffle salt, smoked paprika salt, harissa aioli, chilli caramel.
There's still plenty for vegetarians, too, such as marinated vegie skewers and grilled watermelon with feta, mint and pita croutons.
The drinks riff on a 1990s backyard party vibe, with shandies, wine spritzers and pitchers of potent mixes with names such as Slip N Slide and Hills Hoist (a rocket fuel-style combination of watermelon, apple, lemon, gin, mint and soda, $30).
The East Coast Cooler (sauv blanc, passionfruit syrup, lemonade, soda, orange bitters, $10) and Lemon Ruski Deluxe (chenin blanc, Ketel One citrus vodka, soda, lemonade, mint, lemon, $10) wine spritzers are fun and generous, but they are almost sickly sweet. Ditto the spiked cider slushie (James Squire orchard crush cider, Smirnoff green apple vodka, apple juice, $10). They're a one-a-night type drink.
The wines are far from fancy as well, with a menu simply listing them by grape - choose from sauv blanc, chenin blanc, pinot gris, chardonnay, cab sauv, shiraz, tempranillo and pinot noir. Again, cheap and cheerful. If you're coming here looking for the best of the best, you're going to leave disappointed.
Instead, this is an easy, breezy bar with a house-party vibe. Throw a bit of money down, get your hands dirty with some greasy meats, and wash it down with cheap tap beer and a fair-dinkum pitcher of Hills Hoist.
You'll love it … for sunny-arvo or balmy-evening drinks.
You'll hate it if … you're looking for top-notch cocktails and food.
Go for … black Angus sirloin, prawns on the barbie, East Coast Cooler spritzers.
- 02 9368 7333
- Cuisine - Modern Australian
- Prices - Wine by the glass $6-$9, wine spritzers $10, skewers $12-$16
- Features - Outdoor seating, Cheap and cheerful, Vegetarian friendly
- Opening Hours - Mon-Thu, 4pm-midnight; Fri-Sun, noon-midnight
- Author - Rachel Olding