With plenty of hole-in-the-wall cafes popping up across Sydney, The Swinging Cat is bringing a slightly different concept to the city: a New Orleans hole-in-the-wall bar complete with classic Southern cocktails and a smoked wagyu grilled cheese sandwich.
"You walk up to a hole-in-the-wall bar in New Orleans and they give you a disposable cup that you go and get refilled," says owner Peter Fischer.
While his offering is less disposable cups and more table service and plenty of seating, it pays tribute to the jazz city's cocktail culture with its drinks menu featuring five variations on the classic Cognac-based Sazerac cocktail, thought to have been born in a New Orleans apothecary in 1838.
The cocktail list also offers New Orleans "local favourite" the Hurricane, and the Ramos Gin Fizz. Signature drinks include a vanilla-infused "Rue royal" and the "Lafayette" with sweet tea and peach nectar.
Its most noteworthy food offering, though, is probably chef Richard Duff's grilled cheese sandwich. Filled with smoked wagyu beef, a tomato chutney, chilli paste and cajun spices, the New Orleans grilled cheese is much more than a simple toasted treat.
Already a menu favourite – the bar opened six weeks ago – Duff and Fischer have plans to add more sandwiches in the future. "But for now, we're going for a quick classic with this melting cheese and beef," says Fischer. The short and sweet bar food menu also includes dumplings, a terrine and a charcuterie plate.
The concept for the bar was developed after a trip to the New Orleans Mardis Gras, and has been more than six years in the making while Fischer waited for the right site. It came in the form of an underground space on the corner of Clarence and King streets that has been outfitted with original New Orleans gas-lit street lamps and interiors inspired by the city's oldest neighbourhood, the French Quarter.
The music goes from blues and soul in the late afternoon to "evening funk" and modern jazz. There's a piano in the corner and Fischer has plans for live music on Fridays.
44 King Street, Sydney, Mon-Sat 4pm-midnight, theswingingcat.com