52 Harris St Pyrmont, NSW 2009
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri noon-9.30pm; Sat 9am-9.30pm|
|Features||Bar, Business lunch, Licensed|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 8591 3660|
Boy, do I enjoy a good midday steak and martini. A gin cocktail drier than day-old bread, leading into medium-rare steak seared to bring out the farmer's best work. A salty, satisfying two-punch lunch.
With this in mind, I feel confident in saying that Bar Clementine – with its steak frites, tight cocktails and marble bar – is the best thing to happen in Pyrmont since Momofuku started putting caviar on fried chicken.
Bar Clementine has been keeping Pyrmont locals happy at the northern end of Harris Street since February. At the helm is Eric Morris (sometimes known by hospitality stage name Enrique Mendoza), the moustached nice guy formerly sommelier at Bloodwood and Porteno. The low-key wine bar is a sibling to Clementine's, the neighbouring cafe Morris opened in 2016 known for its meatball sandwich.
Owning a bar with cracking wine was always Morris's main objective, however. Bar Clementine is a handsome place with an Art Deco-style fitout featuring white marble and chestnut-hued timber. There's a banquette for lunching, and stools for quick drinking, punctuated by wildflowers and citrus-filled fruit bowls
A rye old fashioned ($20) made with spice-heavy Bulleit 95 whiskey is the most expensive tincture on a sharp list of cocktails. It's well-suited for sipping by a large window and people-watching Pyrmont residents on crisp afternoon. Pair it with a half-dozen Wonboyn rock oysters priced at $20 or a competitive $12 during happy hour at 5pm.
Meanwhile, a dirty martini ($18) is sufficiently briny and bracing, starring Poor Toms gin and no fewer than four pimento olives. It's the perfect precursor to steak frites ($24) featuring either flank or rump cap, depending on the day, and fries enhanced with house-made Old Bay.
The wine list features about 35 bottles and eight of those are available by the glass. There's a focus on natural wine, but it isn't a manifesto – rather, Morris selects juice based on the winemaker's integrity. Polperro 2017 pinot noir ($115) out of the Mornington Peninsula shares the cellar with offerings from La Petite Mort, Latta, Lucy Margaux and Pheasant's Tears. There's wine here to suit all tastes.
Good Intentions 2018 "Frankie" cabernet franc ($13/$68) made with Mount Gambier grapes is super vibrant and slightly earthy – a top drop by itself that's also easy-going enough to dance with food. Cime di rapa-laced rigatoni boosted by chilli and a generous grating of pecorino ($16), say, or a sweet and buttery tranche of Cone Bay barramundi with kipfler potatoes and sauce ravigote ($24).
Chef Craig Gray leads the kitchen and I now have resolve to return to Pyrmont on a Saturday night and settle in for his tasting menu of four courses and snacks for only $45.
The chef's carte currently includes goat ragu with barley and broad beans, plus milk parfait with poached feijoa, but I expect dishes to regularly change based on what produce is looking good that week. It also gives locals a reason to return.
I'll certainly be back to explore more of the wine list and cocktails, too. With Sokyo's Chase Kojima and Victor Liong (Lee Ho Fook, Melbourne) teaming up to take over the old Flying Fish site in July, Pyrmont looks to be finally getting its groove on in all the right places.
If you only drink one thing: Poor Toms dirty martini ($18).
If you only eat one thing: Steak frites ($24).