175 Victoria St Potts Point, NSW 2011
|Opening hours||Tue-Wed 4-11pm; Thu 4pm-1am; Sun noon-11pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
A few weeks ago I reviewed Easy Eight in Sydney's CBD – a rock and pop-loving boozer from Mojo Record Bar talent that made its own chicken salt. Now, over at the old Bootleg Meatballs site in Potts Point, I'm toe-tapping at another new joint with the same description. Except where Easy Eight makes chicken salt by oven-baking chook skin, Jangling Jack's employs a different method.
"We pull the chickens' tails until they cry," says bartender Nikita Ward. "Then we dehydrate their tears."
I run this past Jack's Canadian chef, Dave Ferreira, who denies everything and claims the seasoning is a mix of chicken stock cubes and creole spices. Whatever the recipe, I dig the hell out of the stuff.
There's a lot I dig at this long and narrow small bar from Jon Ruttan (ex-Mojo) and his partner Orlan Erin Raleigh, actually; a Primal Scream and Let It Be-era Beatles soundtrack, emerald green pressed-metal walls, deeper green fortune-teller lamp shades, blues posters, quality whiskey, andouille sausages, Reschs on tap ($7) and Nick Cave vinyl on display.
Snags, Reschs and Cave – the Holy Trinity of "I saw Custard in 1992" inner-west rock dad.
The heart of the room is a spotted-gum bar where solo drinkers recite a Bill Callahan mantra of "Beer. Thank you. Beer. Thank you. Beer." Ward, who has likely made you a negroni at The Hazy Rose, is a cocktail gun. Her Trinidad Sour ($22) is the perfect shade of rust-red and sings with bitters and spice. (I legit thought the mix of Angostura, rye, orgeat and lemon juice was created long before its US debut at Brooklyn's Clover Club in 2009, but nope. It wasn't).
The Nielsen ($21) is a house invention named after former Victoria Street resident Juanita Nielsen. What Milagro silver tequila, amontillado sherry, orange bitters, lemon juice and pear have to do with a presumed murdered, 1970's anti-development activist is anyone's guess (the blue cheese garnish is an even bigger mystery) but it's a sharp and refreshing quencher to get you in the mood for Cajun-inspired bistro fare.
Boneless fried chicken ($16) is a little too drenched in honey butter for its own good but a crunchy, well-seasoned Reschs matches nonetheless. Even better mates with beer is the smoky, fatty andouille pork sausage ($15) with house-made mustard. Steak frites ($24) hits new heights of deliciousness when curls of cafe de Paris butter melt down, mingle with meat juices and spill on to a nest of chicken-salted fries (no more chicken salt for the next month, I swear, Doc). We chase it with a bottle of juicy Ca'di Ponti 2013 Nero d'Avola from bar manager Adam Cork's super-small wine list and late Sunday lunch is declared a success.
Well done to Jangling Jack's for recreating the underground, alternative vibes of Kings Cross in stasis at The Piccolo Bar for the last decade or more. God knows there are a few available sites in the area these days and I pray this venue doesn't become another statistic. Through celebrating the neighbourhood, treating adults like adults and serving fair dinkum food and drinks, I see no reason why it can't weather the lockout-law storm and herald in a new era of chicken salt and cocktails for the community. Hit the road for Jack's and come back for more.
Go for… the spirit of Kings Cross past and future.
Stay for… The Beatles and a boulevardier.
Drink… A Trinidad Sour.
And… yes, that's an actual Nick Cave autograph on the From Her to Eternity vinyl.