Wednesday, May 14, 2014

Moving up: Upstairs at The Bank

Sydney pubs are moving on up and out of the past – from upmarket gastro pubs to hipster-friendly renovations, the pub experience is moving beyond just schooners, TAB screens and stale carpet.

As part of recent renovations at The Bank in Newtown, the huge, multi-faceted venue now comprises the front street-level bar, back beer garden, a mezzanine level and now Upstairs – a Wednesday to Saturday late night venue focused on cocktails and live music.

Pinball machines at Upstairs at The Bank, King Street, Newtown
Climb the stairs from the separate street entrance or the internal pub flight to find a large, dark and nostalgic space with nods to rock and live music history – I could envisage rockers and their groupies hanging out Upstairs in the comfy booths and couches or playing pool or the pinball machines.

Upstairs outdoor seating
There's also a bright, wood-clad balcony with prime seats looking out over King Street and all its oddities - a perfect space for warm autumn afternoons and nights.

The Upstairs space
A sophisticated cocktail list has been put together by Jeremy Shipley, group bars manager for The Bank's owner, pub group Solotel, and also co-owner of Darlinghurst small bar, Hinky Dinks.

It's pretty much a dedicated cocktail bar, miles away from the usual pub cocktail list; perhaps representative of a growing appreciation for cocktails among today’s drinking crowd.

I started with the Penicillin-ita; a tequila play on the Penicillin cocktail, with honey syrup, lemon juice and ginger beer accompanying Herradura Reposado and a mezcal float. The cocktail, served in a pretty cut crystal tumbler, had an underlying sweetness that smoothed over the punchy hits of tequila.

Mid-West Sour
The bourbon based Mid-West Sour is a seriously good twist on the classic whisky sour using pink grapefruit juice on top of lime and falernum; shaken with egg white and bitters and served classically with a maraschino cherry.

Latenight Daiquiri
The classic lime-based daiquiri could have been more sour for me, with Havana Club Anejo shaken with fresh lime juice, agave nectar and peach bitters, served up in a dainty coupe glass.

Two Birds Golden Ale
Despite the excellent cocktails on offer, that's not to say there isn't a great selection of Australian craft and imported beers at the Upstairs bar, with the Two Birds Golden Ale from Geelong being a good choice for a fruity, medium-bodied brew.

Hot beef jerky
There's a very decent Upstairs bar menu for when a few drinks get you in the mood for food. Utilising the same kitchen as the downstairs pub and beer garden offerings, it's a well-rounded menu spanning snacks and share plates, things sandwiched between bread and pizzas – the latter two of which mirror the pub options.

A perfect bedfellow with beer, the beef jerky was surprisingly good with cocktails too. The dry strips of beef, peppered with chilli flakes, tear into stringy pieces that are salty, meaty and deliciously chewy.

Smoked oyster tin, crème fraiche, tabasco, crackers
Not a favoured seafood delicacy of mine, the tin of smoked oysters was served with a tower of soft oat crackers, crème fraiche and lemon in a pretty presentation on a wooden board.

Fried chicken, kewpie mayo, kim chi
Continuing mine and Sydney's infatuation with fried poultry, the fried chicken wings looked like a flour-dusted and fried version I make at home but with better spice seasoning and probably just as un-photogenic.

The wings were beautifully juicy inside and matched spectacularly with kim chi fermented cabbage and of course, Japanese mayonnaise which seems to go well with everything.

BBQ duck sausage rolls, HP sauce
The sausage rolls were a winner with an unexpectedly chunky duck meat filling and HP brown sauce. Encasing the gamey filling was the best part of the four round slices – the insanely flaky and buttery pastry which by the end showered the table messily in golden flakes.

Crumbed mozzarella,'saltimbocca', tomato vinaigrette
The idea of fried cheese had me won although the mozzarella balls didn't really reach that desired oozey or stringy state.

Crumbed mozzarella,'saltimbocca' insides
With a slice of ham crumbed within the cheese ball and a tomato sauce (rather than a vinaigrette) on the side, the concept works but needs just a little tinkering; perhaps a different, more easily-melting cheese or longer in the deep fry.

BBQ pulled pork, red cabbage, chipotle, mayo with shoestring fries
From the 'bun stuffers' part of the menu came the epically-sized pulled pork burger and fries – ideal for a big appetite, sharing or pre-diet week.

With a shiny, sesame seed-topped bun stabbed through with a knife - to cut and to hold it in place - it was about the largest burger I've seen in Sydney; chock full of smoky BBQ pulled pork and shredded red cabbage, finished with a spiced chipotle mayonnaise.

King crab club sandwich, McClures pickle crisps
On the other end of the scale of sandwiches was the king crab club sandwich; a triple-layered, toasted white bread sandwich with more lettuce and tomato in it than crustacean. The crab seemed to be minimal in a paste form, with some crunch and flavour from crisp-fried pancetta bits.

The highlight of this dish was the McClures potato crisps; a US import of dill pickle flavoured crisps. The flavour of these chips is unbelievably spot-on, combining the sandwich accompaniments of potato crisps and a pickle.

Speck, (mushroom), roast onion pizza
The Bank offers pizzas on tomato or white sauce bases, and we opted for the bartender’s recommendation of speck, mushroom and roast onion on a tomato base.

The rectangular pizza arrived with a liberal topping of melted mozzarella cheese and a notable absence of mushroom. Nonetheless, the speck and onion made for a tasty combination on the medium-thick crust; though why the rectangular pizza was cut into hard-to-manage triangular wedges was beyond me.

Juke box
With the drinking and snacking crowd picking up from 7.30pm – and licensed to open until 5.00am – Upstairs at The Bank is well placed to capitalise on the late night crowd that's perhaps moving out of the CBD precinct and moving up from the usual pub night out.

Food, booze and shoes dined at Upstairs at The Bank as a guest, with thanks to Agency G.

Upstairs at the Bank on Urbanspoon


Macky Blaise said...

Upstairs in the bank serves delicious cuisines. i LOVE TO dine here. One of the food i love is the Speck, (mushroom), roast onion pizza.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

Are the smoked oysters done by the kitchen, or just bought from the supermarket? The crumbed mozzarella looks tasty though.

Tina said...

Hi Helen - Looks like a tin, opened by the kitchen ;)


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