Served with a smile: Friendly bar staff make a pleasant change for Kings Cross. Photo: Daniel Boud
There's mutton dressed up as lamb and then there's a booty club dressed up as a boutique bar.
The location formerly known as the smoking area outside the Club in Kings Cross - a destination favoured by naughty rugby league players and girls in spray-on dresses - has just become its own snazzy cocktail bar.
Alec Brown, James Reynolds and The Island's Julian Tobias have transformed the space into a separate entity promising a ''world-class wine and cocktail list and delicious modern cuisine''.
Indeed, I came to the Courtyard Bar full of optimism.
I love Bayswater Road and, in my head, this new place would fit right in - a fern-laced courtyard, cute wrought-iron garden tables, fairy lights, little sliders to start the night off with and playful cocktails.
The idea would be to come for an early drink and a bite, then party on at Hugos or the Club.
In reality, however, it probably delivered on about a quarter of this.
The setting is certainly lovely - leafy and charming. By 10pm on Friday and Saturday nights, it's full of smokers, and a line snakes around the little white picket fence of people lining up to pay $25 to get into the Club (which, some seem to be able to avoid paying by going through the Courtyard Bar).
The cocktails, shots and pitchers are decent, too. There's only one menu, which has gone missing, so we fly blind, guided by the friendly bar staff (their friendliness is almost disarming in the Cross).
A Dark and Feisty (tequila, ginger, lime, stout, $18) and El Mariachi (tequila, watermelon, chilli, lime, sugar, $18) are both interesting combinations with good bite.
The Pine Splice shot (pineapple-infused pisco, lemon, lime, $11) and Black Rack shot (chilled espresso vodka, espresso shot, coffee liqueur, $11) also suit Kings Cross' trashiness to a fabulous T.
The problem with the Courtyard, however, is that it suffers from supreme laziness.
It's one of those venues that is popular without trying - and so it doesn't, really.
There are some themed nights during the week (such as ''take me back'' night on Wednesdays, which serves different international cuisines) but the quality of the offerings could be so much better.
The bartenders are not overly well-informed about the drinks and food, there's little done to make customers feel special, and it operates like a busy club rather than a boutique bar, despite marketing itself as the latter.
The food came from Barrio Chino across the road and was less than memorable. A bowl of cheap corn chips came with a small serving of stodgy guacamole ($8). Five measly ribs were $16. The fish taco was a slight improvement but was lukewarm.
The promising menu described on its website was nowhere to be seen. No sliders, no ''modern Australian with a twist'', no grazing menu and no ''tapas-style sharing menu''. At least it's got a Grenache blanc (Chateau Mont-Redon, $12) and a malbec (Pulenta ''La Flor'', $9) worth drinking.
Barhop was later informed that the menu is still up in the air and a new winter offering is on the way. By that time, however, the Courtyard may have run out of steam.
Without enough chutzpah or care-factor to set it apart from the Club and make it a destination of its own worth visiting, it's little more than a smoking area dressed up as a bar.
You'll love it if … you want to start your big night early on Bayswater Road.
You'll hate it if … you've come expecting a top-notch cocktail bar.
Go for … Dark and Feisty; Pine Splice shot.
- 0413 827 740
- Prices - Cocktails $18; shots $11; wine by the glass $8-$12.
- Features - Bar, Licensed, Outdoor seating
- Opening Hours - Wednesday-Sunday, 6pm-1am
- Author - Rachel Olding