Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Strand me on The Island Bar, please

It so far hasn’t been the best of Sydney summers, and having recently returned from some similarly variable and unseasonal weather in Asia, I’m a bit over it. Blue sky and sunshine, please. And if and when that is ever the case, I’ll be heeding the call of The Island Bar in Sydney Harbour’s Cockatoo Island.

The Island Bar, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour
Open since December some time, The Island Bar is the brainchild of Bacco barman Marco Faraone, also Time Out’s Bartender of the Year 2010. Invited along to the media launch, +1 and I and a packed water taxi headed speedily towards the heritage listed island one afternoon.

Some view
Racing by ferries and yachts, my first experience with a water taxi was a little bumpy but manageable. Alighting at the moving jetty was easy enough in heels and sober, though I had concerns for later after a few beverages or so.

The Island Bar launch
But enough with the worrying, I had much to look forward to: cocktails, antipasti and a simply extraordinary setting that is uniquely Sydney (although Melbourne’s Yarra is getting a similar bar in Ponyfish Island – muddy river versus glistening harbour, hmmm).

Looking around Cockatoo Island
It’s a short walk across the island to get to The Island Bar, its brightly striped umbrellas and astroturf-ed surface making it unmissable.

The converted shipping containers that form the bar and an upstairs area fit right in with the island’s shipping history (it was the site of one of Australia's biggest shipyards during the 20th century as well as a former imperial prison, industrial school, reformatory and gaol).

The Island Bar's bar
The bar setup stands out from its rather industrial and then water surrounds, but it doesn’t feel out of place, especially when you’re seated in a comfy-as low deck chair which is easier to get into than out of.

Queue at the bar
Cocktails at the bar beckoned, made fresh and ready for our arrival. I’m initially a little overwhelmed by the wide selection available from The Island Bar’s list of 22 cocktails, each more enticing than the next – not surprising considering Faraone is behind the menu.

Marco Faraone
I start with an Elderflower Collins, an elderflower cordial sweetened twist on the classic Tom Collins. Made with Hendricks Gin and topped with mint and a slice of cucumber, it was, as always with the first drink, one that went down too easily.

The Negroni looks a dark and sexy drink with its cucumber slice and orange twist, but I’m more in the mood for the sweet and silly this night.

Aperol Spritz

Cold War Sgroppino
Frothy, pink and fanciful, the Sgroppino is just the thing to pretend it was a summery day and even offset the saltiness of cured meats. Russian Standard vodka, Aperol and lemon juice are whizzed and fizzed up with lemon sorbet to create the fluffy top of the drink. Indeed, I even got blobs of sorbet in my foam, which were unexpectedly nice.

Making the Hello Sailor cocktails

Possibly a Cockatoo Peach Julep - so many drinks!

The barbeque
Trays of various bruschetta from the spuntini menu did the rounds of the astroturf, doing a good job in subduing appetites and preventing too much tipsiness. In a nod to the very Australian lifestyle and surrounds, bread for the bruschetta was grilled on a barbeque, emitting smoky aroma to all nearby.

Tray of bruschetta
The Traditionale bruschetta with diced tomato, basil and garlic is, as ever, messy and not ideal eaten over a silk skirt, but full of fresh and sweet flavours.

The Romana was my favourite with a surprisingly not too salty blend of black olives, made almost creamy with lots and lots of olive oil.

The Calbrese featured a beautifully creamy and subdued goat’s cheese, smeared onto the bread and topped with ribbons of roasted red capsicum.

The Paesana was also a winner with a curl of chewy, salty prosciutto adorning a liberal spread of grilled artichoke tapenade, a delicious if not uncommon spread.

Salumi platter
We somehow managed to score a cured meat platter on our table too, which didn’t do the rounds quite as easily as the bruschetta but are great for sharing anyway. The salami was the easiest to pick at, a chunky chewy roll of cured pork, flavoured with fennel seeds and quite addictive to chew.


The bresaola was the darkest of the lot, with a strong meaty flavour compared to the pork meats. I preferred this air dried beef with something; bread or the sparse marinated vegetables in the centre of the platter.

Also a bit chewy was the capocollo, a darkly cured pork neck that was rather salty and otherwise not as flavourful as its platter partners.

The prosciutto was by far the saltiest of the lot, nearly painfully so, though this had texture a little closer to ham than the firmer prosciutto I’m accustomed to.

Sausage on a roll
More substantial food in the way of a good old sausage sizzle started later in the night, served on soft hot dog buns with grilled onion and selection of sauces. It was actually a really decent sausage and probably something they’ll replicate on Australia Day.

Island Bar activities: soccer, croquet and more

You can even see the Sydney Tower from The Island Bar

Shelter amid shipbuilding relics

Ferries to Cockatoo Island will probably do a more loopy journey to the island compared to a water taxi that goes direct, so check the timetable and especially times for the last ferry. I mean, The Island Bar is a great concept that really showcases Cockatoo Island, but I don’t really fancy getting stranded overnight on the island when the bar’s not open.

The Island Bar, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour
Thanks to The Cru Media for the invitation to a great night on the island.

The Island Bar on Urbanspoon


Simon Food Favourites said...

looks like a great setup. :-)

Not Quite Nigella said...

There looks to be a lot of good food to be had here!

Tina said...

Hi Simon - Yes, it's perfect for a sunny, not too crowded day ;)

Hi Lorraine - Well, it's rather a small menu - just the bruschetta, cured meats and salads - though that's plenty enough for me!


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