Johnny Fishbone review

Old-school cool: Inside Johnny Fishbone's beautifully designed room.
Old-school cool: Inside Johnny Fishbone's beautifully designed room. Photo: Christopher Pearce

185 Darlinghurst Rd Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Tue-Sat 5pm-late
Features Bar, Late night, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Ryan O'Shannessey, Elwyn Watkin
Phone 02 9332 4052

Poor old Hinky Dinks. It had a good run. But it looks like the Darlinghurst thirst for tropical cocktails has enjoyed its final Mai Tai. In its place rises a new offering from the Buffalo Dining Club crew – a small wine bar with decent-sized snacks.

So here's Johnny Fishbone. Not to be mistaken with Johnny Wishbone, lead singer of Sydney band the Snowdroppers, or Axel Foley's Caribbean alter ego in Beverly Hills Cop 2 ("I don't need no help from no one because I'm Johnny Wishbone, psychic extraordinaire.")

It features a John-based wine list (for real – more on that later) and a short menu with a focus on dipping in and dropping out. Best of all, it's a proper neighbourhood haunt where even on a rainy Tuesday night, the beautifully designed room (rounded lines, wood panelling, classic frosted light fittings, marble-topped bar) is packed to the gunwales.

Pimentos de padron with manchego custard.
Pimentos de padron with manchego custard. Photo: Christopher Pearce

It looks to be very much based on the old bodegas of Spain and the enotecas of Italy, where tapas and antipasti are prepared behind the bar and served on the spot, depending on where you're perched. Maybe it'll be some thinly sliced and lightly cured kingfish dressed in lime juice, chilli and finished with a little coriander.

There's nothing wrong, either, with just going straight for a bowl of olives, a little bread and butter and something effervescent from John C. Reilly's section on the wine list, "sparkling boogie nights".

Maybe, if what you've ordered is coming out of the modest adjoining open kitchen, it'll be a plate of blistered pimentos de padron, crusted in salt and served with a spoonful of thick manchego custard. Personally, I've always thought the Russian roulette peppers (one in 20 are hot) are better just served by themselves.

Honey bugs at Johnny Fishbone.
Honey bugs at Johnny Fishbone. Photo: Christopher Pearce

But as a side note, I'd love to settle in with that custard on a piece of toast late at night with a full-bodied bottle of pianogrillo (that, you'll find under John Candy) on the side.

There's also something really attractive about just being able to drop by for some rosy slices of flat iron steak, with just the right amount of chew, resting on a slick of parsnip puree.

Maybe you'll order a side of black rice, too, covered in an avalanche of tiny perfect, lightly blanched cauliflower florets sitting on a bed of baby spinach. It's one of the few times the green has made an appearance and hasn't looked horribly retro. 

The flatiron steak.
The flatiron steak. Photo: Christopher Pearce

That'd be about the right time to dive into John Wayne's wine section, devoted to old-school cool, and order a glass of bordeaux.

'Course you can always do a bit of everything. If you're looking for trouble, they'll accommodate ya.

The lowdown

Black rice ($15); Ceviche ($18); Padron peppers ($12)

Pro Tip: If you can't get a table straight away, Bar Brose is just across the road. Make a crawl of it.

Go-to Dish: Try this The honey bugs are a sweet, hot and buttery handful of share-fun.