Golden Age Cinema & Bar

Rachel Olding
A modernist chandelier hangs elegantly over a communal table.
A modernist chandelier hangs elegantly over a communal table. Photo: Edwina Pickles

80 Commonwealth Street Surry Hills, Australia 2010

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Opening hours Tuesday-Friday 5pm-midnight, Saturday-Sunday 2.30pm-midnight
Features Bar, Views, Licensed
Prices Cheap (mains under $20)
Phone 02 9211 1556

Who says the golden age of cinema is over?

''The good old days are now,'' the Golden Age Cinema motto assures us. It's good times indeed with the bowels of the old Paramount building in Surry Hills – once the home of Paramount Pictures in the 1940s – now housing a mini cinema and adjoining bar that are breathing a bit of life back into a trip to the movies.

Barry, Chris and Bob Barton wanted to put the cinema/bar on the rooftop, like their successful Melbourne equivalent, but the not-so-neighbourly neighbours kiboshed that idea, so we're deep down in the basement, formerly Paramount's VIP viewing room.

Enjoy the show and the food at Golden Age Cinema & Bar.
Enjoy the show and the food at Golden Age Cinema & Bar. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Even if the two nightly sessions in the 60-seater don't take your fancy, the soundproofed bar next door is a destination in its own right, at least for the Gelato Messina sundaes.

It's an art deco-inspired nook with a modernist chandelier hanging elegantly over a communal table and an arc of tiny tables.

The movie-inspired menu – all of which can be taken into the cinema – has been given a sophisticated touch. No choc tops and giant colas here.

Amazing: the Errol Flynn cocktail.
Amazing: the Errol Flynn cocktail. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Instead, it's popcorn-flavoured cocktails, classy bar snacks and, I repeat, those Messina sundaes. (The flavour changes each month and was a deliciously pavlova-esque mess of meringue, fruit, candy and creamy gelato when Barhop visited, $8.)

The signature cocktails extol ingredients that'll have you salivating – popcorn-infused rum, pecan bourbon, vanilla bean smoke – but the jury's still out on whether they deliver on their promise.

The Buttered Popcorn Flip (buttered popcorn-infused Papagayo white rum, egg yolk, salted popcorn sugar, $18) was oddly flavourless and totally underwhelming for its $18 price tag, even if it did have a swizzle stick of caramelised popcorn.

The Maple Pecan Old Fashioned (roasted pecan-infused Bulleit Bourbon, Old Fashioned bitters, maple syrup, orange, candied pecan, $19) was so strong my companion left it behind, even after watching a movie and allowing the ice to mellow it.

On the other hand, the Errol Flynn (caramelised pineapple-infused Bulleit Bourbon, apple cider vinegar, honey and ginger syrup, lemon, vanilla bean smoke, $18) was amazing.

It comes in a smoke-filled glass case and has an intriguing smokiness to the vanilla and lemon flavours.

Next time, however, we might stick to the seasonal cameos (surely you can't go wrong with Campari, grapefruit soda and housemade lemon syrup, $10) or the classics.

Otherwise there is a different craft ale on tap each week ($8.50), an appropriate nod to old Hollywood in the form of a glass of Moet ($18) and some nice mostly Australian wines, the cheapest of which is a steep $12 a glass (a 2012 South sauvignon blanc from Tasmania or a 2010 Serafino primitivo from Adelaide).

Skip the maple bourbon pecans ($5) and marinated mushrooms ($6.50) – both were boring flavourwise – and go for a cheese plate with honey ($16) or a cup of parmesan popcorn ($5).

The floor staff are a little jittery in these early days and Golden Age hasn't quite struck gold.

It sure is a golden formula – but there's a little more work to be done before the good old days are truly back.

You'll love it if ... you want a classy, unusual trip to the movies

You'll hate it if ...  you spend all your money on the cocktails

Go for ...  Errol Flynn, Gelato Messina sundae