Monday, December 19, 2011

Get tropical at The Island Bar, Cockatoo Island

Cocktails at The Island Bar, Cockatoo Island, Sydney Harbour
Summer is officially here (if not necessarily weather wise) and The Island Bar on Cockatoo Island is into its summer season, opening seven days a week until February which is just perfect for the party and holiday season.

The Island Bar
Boasting a few changes and refinements since last year, The Island Bar appears to be flourishing with the increase of activity on Cockatoo Island, not to mention exclusive private parties. But never fear, the shipping containers and all manner of souvenir to the island's shipbuilding past remain.

Afro beats for entertainment for the First Day of Summer Party at The Island Bar
We couldn't complain really as a dark and cloudy morning turned into blue skies (albeit cool and windy) for the First Day of Summer Party to launch the summer season for The Island Bar. The water taxi to Cockatoo Island was quick and easy, although the ferry is a less bumpy option.

Sparkling wine - does it count as a launch party without bubbles?

Dark and Stormy cocktail
The bar staff have certainly got their cocktail work cut out, with 21 cocktails on the menu and a great deal of them available on launch night. On regular occasions, all cocktails can be bought by the glass or jug, making for excellent group drinking value or some pretty serious solo sessions.

Cold War Sgroppino cocktail
I'd tried and loved the Cold War Sgroppino before, and would happily drink this for the rest of summer. Vodka and lemon sorbet seem made for each other, and with a dash of Aperol and lemon juice, this cocktail is probably the most fun you can have in a wine glass.

Piña colada served in a young coconut
Speaking of fun, the very uniform young coconuts used to serve the piña colada should be the dictionary image of 'fun'. Lots of rum and pineapple mix with creamy coconut and ice, topped with a straw or two and a paper umbrella.

Kicking back on a deck chair with one of these particularly creamy drinks was probably as close as I'm getting to an island getaway this year.

Pizza oven incorporated into a shipping container
One of the aforementioned changes to The Island Bar is the expanded food menu, courtesy of a custom installed pizza oven - right into the side of a shipping container. The makeshift shipping container kitchen must be a logistical nightmare, but the high quality of pizzas they were pumping out makes it pretty impressive.

Prosciutto pizzettes
For starters, the kitchen pumped out tray after tray of mini pizzas, which seemed more like (fast cooling) baked miniature pizza bases with tomato sauce, topped with raw and uncooked toppings like here: rocket, prosciutto and a shaving of parmesan cheese.

Smoked salmon pizzettes
Other raw toppings included smoked salmon, rocket and Spanish onion. This was definitely the first smoked salmon 'pizza' I've ever had; though I suppose it was a little more like a canapé. And I certainly didn't expect smoked salmon to go with the pizza's tomato sauce, but it did surprisingly.

Roast capsicum pizzettes
More raw Spanish onion rings were to be found on the roast capsicum pizzette, which were all frankly going down a treat with the drinking crowd. However, there was more than just a little excitement when we discovered what was essentially an antipasti buffet (at the launch party only, I'm afraid).

Vegetable and cured meat antipasti selection
We were able to help ourselves to grilled eggplant and zucchini, roasted red capsicum, marinated artichoke and big, fat green olives. For carbs there were wedges of pizza bases and some puffed squares of dough, which were ideal with the salty cured meats.

The soft, yielding prosciutto was a crowd favourite though I adored the flavourful garlic and fennel salami just as much. There was a particularly high sodium chloride content in the capocollo of cured pork neck, while the bresaola had a distinct and stronger meatiness than its porky cousins.

While I could eat antipasti endlessly (and did refill at least once), it was hard to ignore the smells emanating from cardboard pizza boxes that were being ferried over from the shipping container kitchen.

Funghi pizza
Serious, serious pizza. And I probably should have expected no less from The Island Bar proprietor and star bartender, Marco Faraone.

On the cool night, the drinks-chilled crowds flocked to the warm food like moths to a light. The smells were intoxicating and I had to hold back every part of my being not to run off with an entire box.

The fresh-from-the-oven funghi pizza featuring mushrooms and ham definitely hit the spot with its thin base yet crisp edge. And yes, I did pick up all those fallen-off toppings, as I always tend to do - the best part, really.

Mango daiquiris at the bar
One of the great things about The Island Bar is that the staff know exactly what they're doing. The bartenders have the tropical flavours and fun of The Island Bar's cocktail list down pat, with one serious Mango Daiquiri.

It had the full hit of its rum contents while the ripe, in-season mango and ever-fun margarita glasses (even though plastic) make this a cup of summery joy.

Mango daiquiri in the upstairs Tropics Lounge
Above the working bar section in the stacked shipping container, the upstairs has been converted to a sleek area named the Tropics Lounge. Lots of white and nautical stripes, and seating that's easier to get out of than the deck chairs downstairs, make this a posher experience than the outside good times 'lawn'.

Nutella dessert pizza 
And as I turned down one of the last rounds of piping hot pizza, another staff member came around with an irresistably sweet proposition: crispy pizza bases sandwiching generous amounts of Nutella.

While it's not something I'd generally eat with a sweet cocktail, it was straight back to school day lunches with one bite of the chocolate hazelnut goodness.

The Island Bar by night
With night falling and lighting up the residential shoreline one side and the city skyline the other, we'd settled comfortably into the Tropics Lounge with plenty to drink and a bit of a view too.

While a great night was had, I can definitely see the appeal of a daytime stint at The Island Bar, with no fear of missing the last boat/ferry back to Circular Quay. That and beautiful days on the astroturf with a cocktail jug and gorgeous, fresh pizza - indeed, let's get tropical.

Food, booze and shoes attended The Island Bar First Day of Summer Party with thanks to The Cru Media.

The Island Bar on Urbanspoon


Gourmet Getaways said...

Woo hoo!!!

This looks like and awesome day night affair! So many yummy cocktails and yummy food, what a great way to kick off the party season.

I love the name of your blog too, you are a woman after my own heart :)

Anonymous said...

Haven't had a piña colada in more than 15 years! That's because I used to hate coconut. Now I love anything with coconut, especially served in a coconut :)

Corinne @ Gourmantic said...

The cocktails look great! Shame about the weather... I wasn't able to make it on the night due to another engagement and the water taxi times. We just need summer to enjoy those venues!

sugarpuffi said...

looks so fun! the cold war sgroppino cocktail and pina colada sounds so yummy and refreshing

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

Looks like fun-I just wish the weather would cooperate for the next few weeks. We need sun for places like this! :)

Mary @ beyondjelly said...

That pizza base looks perfect! And any excuse for a relaxing ferry ride is a good thing. :)

Akika (Ichigo Shortcake) said...

SO many cocktails! I'm getting dizzy just looking at them :P I can't take alcohol that well, but they look so pretty I wouldn't mind trying them all :D

Dee said...

Bum! I got this confused with that one weekend only cocktail fest. and didn't sit down and have any drinks whilst I was on the island for outpost :(

Looks so good! Stomach is sad, liver is happy.

Lucas said...

That looks amazing. I specifically want the fungi pizza & the mango daquiris. Several of them. Many.

Vivian - vxdollface said...

lol doesn't get more island-y than having pina colada's in young coconuts xD love it! if only the weather would shape up -.-

Sara - Belly Rumbles said...

Oh hello cocktails and canapes, two of my fave things.

TT said...

The band was definitely a HUGE highlight.
Afro-Nomad I will be coming to your next show!!!
Here is their link if you want to check them out

shez said...

Horrible that the weather wasn't willing to play nice on this occasion - those cocktails look fantastic (and did I hear "by the jug"? Sign me up!)

Winston said...

Oh wooow... What a perfect evening over good food, drinks and music... Summer bliss! I love that they used those Spanish onion rings... Makes them look so much cuter than they already are. Awesome stuff!

Tina said...

Hi Gourmet Getaways - Definitely a great day-nighter venue ;)

Hi lateraleating - Oh and young coconuts especially! That jelly like flesh - divine!

Hi Corinne - Hopefully there are plenty of sunny opportunities for a return visit!

Hi sugarpuffi - Perfect summer cocktails, indeed!

Hi Lorraine - Yes, summer hasn't been all to co-operative thus far, has it?

Hi Mary - I rarely catch the ferry so it's a complete treat when I do get the chance :)

Hi Akika - Well, there's deck chairs and astroturf if you do need a sit down after drinks ;)

Hi Dee - They're open every day in the summer season ;)

Hi Lucas - Good order. Pizzas were pretty impressive for something that comes out of a shipping container!

Hi Vivian - Yeah, pina coladas in deck chairs!

Hi Sara - Agreed. Could have both, endlessly!

Hi TT - Yes, the set a great vibe for the night. Thanks for the link (I actually missed their name...)

Hi shez - Yup, I think they can do any cocktail by the jug!

Hi Winston - The mini pizzas were cute, but I'm not the hugest fan of raw onion...


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