96 Oxford St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
|Features||Late night, Licensed, Bar|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
I'd like to take a little break in your regularly scheduled restaurant review to put forward an idea. And that idea is "when it comes to the lockout laws do we, as a city, need to grow up?".
Keep in mind, I say this as a dedicated late night fun seeker, ever at the ready with a Daiquiri in hand to greet the blue-grey horror of dawn. Yes, the laws suck a big one. And yes, they've killed a large slice of Sydney nightlife and late night culture. But the laws aren't going to change in a hurry, so maybe we'll have to.
Sydney bars and bartenders are leading the charge with a whole new breed making the most of the existing late night restaurant licenses floating around town. Meet the rebirth of the supper club, updated for 2016. While the Swillhouse Group's outrageously successful Hubert might be punking French food and pastis, Big Poppa's has come out swinging with a mash-up of hip-hop and Italian food.
An ode to all things Golden Age (think Public Enemy No.1 over Public Enemy), there's a mosaic of Biggie Smalls, crown askew, on the floor in the downstairs bar. On the walls, classic prints are overlaid with lines from some hip-hop greats. (Though did anyone ask Kendrick Lamar about having his lyrics to "bitch, don't kill my vibe" overlaid on paintings of sickly, white half-nude renaissance-period aristocrats? I wonder.)
And is putting a cocktail called Purple Drank, Lewis Jaffrey and Co's colourful, tooth-jangling take on a West Coast Cooler – and a wink to everyone's favourite codeine-based American cough syrup – a little heavy handed? Maybe. But turn your attention to the Corpse Reviver Mali-Blu – a perfectly icy and austere take on a classic Corpse Reviver spiked with Malibu and blue liqueur.
Upstairs, it's an Italian trattoria serving late night comfort food, executed by head chef Liam O'Driscoll (ex-Pendolino). Here, it's a straightforward menu chock-full of dishes you'll want to order either at the beginning or end of the evening (or both). Flat-iron steak, ruby red slices doused in the anchovy-charged butter it's been cooked in and a squeeze of lemon, maybe, or a powerful cheese-on-cheese-on-cheese-on-cheese eggplant parmigiana. Gnudi – three baby's-fist-sized ricotta puffs doused in tomato sauce showered in pecorino – encapsulates all the joy of a guilty late night red-sauce adventure only heightened with great ingredients and solid technique.
So now we're all growing up together, can I propose one more thing? We take a prohibition approach to drinking, and learn to keep the right spirits, bitters, modifiers and mixers on hand at home. Start building up a decent cellar. Bottle shops may all be closed by 10pm, and you may be doing the midnight weave home after last drinks but check it: you're now a bulletproof legend in your own lounge room.
Try this Use your fingers for the vongole clattering around the plate mixed with little pieces of pork cheek and pasta nibs
Pro Tip: The Poppas don't take bookings, but you can eat in the bar if there are no tables upstairs