Hello Sailor

Rachel Olding
Drop anchor: All that's missing from Hello Sailor is a view of the sea itself.
Drop anchor: All that's missing from Hello Sailor is a view of the sea itself. Photo: James Brickwood

96 Oxford Street (enter through Foley Street between Crown and Palmer streets) Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Tuesday-Sunday, 5pm-1am
Features Bar
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 8354 0057

A new bar in Sydney that isn't Mexican or speakeasy-themed? What a breath of fresh, sea-salty air. Sure, Sydney is a city that loves its ocean-themed bars and sea views but something about Hello Sailor is a welcome break from the latest rash of trendier-than-thou small bars.

The trio from the Island Bar on Cockatoo Island, Mike Edkins, Marco Faraone and Luke Redington, have taken a punt on the nautical theme and opened a whatever-goes style of seafood shack.

Like a ship's cabin, it is hidden deep in the bowels of Oxford Street and decked out in rich mahogany, international flags and all the ship's best trimmings - anchors, ropes and life jackets galore.

Cocktail with pedigree: Pina Colada.
Cocktail with pedigree: Pina Colada. Photo: James Brickwood JSB

The entrance is hidden opposite Shady Pines on Foley Street and a secret corridor leads you to the main bar and seafood dining upstairs of the furtive Sailor's Den downstairs.

When it's quiet, Hello Sailor feels a bit cavernous but it takes only a few people on a Friday or Saturday night to make it feel heartier than a pirate's cackle.

Seafood and tropical cocktails are the captain's orders, delivered in a somewhat rough-and-ready manner.

We ordered from a list of cocktails that didn't look like anything special at first glance - just six creations using some ingredients straight from a poolside location in Panama - but it included an excellent Pina Colada (yes, it exists) and a top-notch Armando Alvarez made with Espolon Blanco, fino sherry, sweetened pineapple and lemon (both $17).

The cocktails have an international bent and are meant to be a bit of fun, with mini umbrellas and fruit garnishes aplenty.

Redington's cocktail pedigree - he shook up the bar at Eau De Vie and El Topo in Bondi - means the drinks are a fair few notches up from sugary buckets of pineapple and Bombora.

The food riffs on an Italy-by-the-sea vibe and is, on the whole, lovely despite a few odd dishes.

Tenderly seared, caramelised scallops with pancetta and egg sauce ($4 each) and grilled marinated king prawns ($5 each) are simple and beautiful. Signature north Tuscan panigacci (a bread cooked in terracotta on charcoal) with pesto, stracchino and prosciutto ($15) and beef with thyme, spicy chicory and pea sprouts ($15) are equally sublime.

The cheeseburger ($14) and spiced chicken wings ($9) don't echo the Italian theme.

You can tell the crew have tried to keep the prices reasonable and a few drinks won't hit your hip pocket too badly.

To keep things even cheaper, peruse the list of Italian wines and rotating beers - an $8 glass of 2009 Poggiopiano toscana rosso from Toscana, Italy, or a lively 2011 Tiefenbrunner pinot grigio from Cortaccia ($11) should keep any sailor happy.

Or you can make like you're sailing to Capri with a glass of Italian prosecco or Spanish Segura Viudas Reserva Brut cava NV ($8-$17). Either way, I'll happily jump aboard this good ship again.

YOU'LL LOVE IT IF … you're always looking for a new haunt in Surry Hills.

YOU'LL HATE IT IF … you're expecting ocean views.

GO FOR … Pina Colada, Armando Alvarez, scallops with pancetta and egg sauce.