239 Oxford St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
|Opening hours||Daily 3pm-11pm|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9331 8063|
There are many things to like about TMBTP: outstanding cocktails, hexagonal coasters, crinkle-cut chips sprinkled in celery salt, towering stems of pampas grass, and $6 cans of Martens Pils to name a few. But best of all is a block-mounted poster of a Honda motorbike bursting through a wall of flames in neo-apocalyptic Ghost Rider fashion. It's proudly non-mise-en-scene in a room of blond wood, Nordic design and book spines reading Noma, Coi, and The Art of Fermentation.
"I found it sticking out of a Sulo bin," says This Must Be The Place co-owner Luke Ashton.
TMBTP (which, in case you missed it, is one of the most hard-to-say acronyms since ICYMI) is the product of blood, sweat and beers from all-round champions Aston (ex Vasco) and Charlie Ainsbury (ex Eau de Vie). Both are former winners of Diageo's World Class Australia Bartender of the year award and take their hooch very seriously.
The guys are dead keen to show Sydney that a spritz cocktail can be more than just prosecco splashed with something bitter and orange. In fact, there's not one mention of Campari or Aperol on the $14 spritzer menu at all. There is something called a Belafonte, however, and it's an absolute ripper on an autumn afternoon, with fino sherry that dry-cuts through Tanqueray 10 gin, lemon juice, prosecco and basil. Love a bit of basil flower in a cocktail, me.
The Emerald City spritz is possibly better, and definitely sweeter, with finger-lime seeds swimming about in it like delicious sea-monkeys in a flute of lime bianco vermouth, Tanqueray, pineapple juice and cardamom.
Now, a low-alcohol cocktail is all well and good at four in the afternoon, but as the sun goes down, the booze percentage must go up. Aston and Ainsbury could probably serve you a single plum floating in perfume if you asked, but there's some cracking original creations that deserve a look. Most noteworthy is the new power ($17) where Ketel One vodka is infused with Fiori di Sicilia (a fragrant citrus oil extract) and mixed with lemongrass pisco, vanilla, and "acid orange" (made in-house by adding citric and tartaric acids to orange juice until it reaches the acid levels of lime).
There's also a sharp wine list (howdy, Harkham natural wine from the Hunter Valley), a couple of beers, and a Rochdalecider ($9) that would love to be best friends with a plate of Barber's cheddar and guindilla peppers ($15). You should let it. And if the Cuca razor clams ($18 a tin) from Spain want to join in, then let them too.
The only bum note about TMBTP is that it's on a part of Oxford Street where even the people-watching is grim. However, that's quickly forgotten when you step inside and see that Honda poster. As David Byrne once sang in a Talking Heads song I can't recall the name of, "If someone asks, this is where I'll be".
Go for… an autumn spritz.
Stay for… a well-crafted classic.
Drink… the new power.
And… the green thing in the corner that looks like a Chitty Chitty Bang Bang spare part is actually a "Crawley's Imperial Shaker", and is the only cocktail-making machine of its kind in Australia.