CHEZ DEE is a cosy bar dominated by a dining table and seemingly decorated by an eccentric and well-travelled grandmother.
Charlie Parker is on the stereo. A deer’s head gazes over a bowl of chestnuts sitting between two Moroccan candle holders.
“We wanted to create a lounge room feeling for all the people in the area who live in studio [apartments],” says Byron Woolfrey, co-owner of the Kings Cross bar.
The drinks are brought out from behind a delicatessen fridge. Customers can choose from simple and elegant menu items: marinated octopus, cheese plates and pickled carrots.
The rise of small bars where food as much as cocktails are the drawcard is a trend identified by the co-editor of the Good Food Guide Terry Durack: “It’s just taken off,” he said.
Chez Dee, which opened about two months ago and started cocktail service last week, was too new for inclusion in the 2013 Guide, on sale today.
The Guide identified Sydney’s best ”good food” bar as 121 BC Cantina and Enoteca in Surry Hills, where the daily menu offers everything from smoked eel puree to ricotta and chilli crumbs.
Durack attributes the rise of bar cuisine to another trend – dining out has become more commonplace and lost some of its sense of special ceremony.
“In the old days you ate out hardly ever; you expected all the trimmings; you expected an event,” he said. ”Now the act of eating out can be on all stages.”
Bars taking over the fine food market is a natural consequence of the hospitality market opening up, says the Sydney architect Eoghan Lewis. When the market was dominated by large pubs with expensive licences, they had to ensure their cuisine had broad appeal and turned a profit.
”If you’re spending 300 grand to sell beer … you’ve got to keep it middle market,” he says.
That gave small bars with a niche clientele a clear run at moving into fine food.
Fraser Short, one of the city’s most successful hospitality entrepreneurs, made his name with Cargo Bar, but his latest project is a small bar-restaurant combination. He converted the site of the old Brooklyn Hotel in George Street into three wine and oyster bars under the name The Morrison Bar & Oyster Room.
”It’s a re-engineering of an old school [design] into what I see as a more contemporary upbeat and in-demand model which incorporates great food, wine and cocktails.”
It also makes economic sense.
By serving food, small bars are widening their reach beyond pencil moustached hipsters.
Martin O’Sullivan, who runs the Grasshopper bar-restaurant in a laneway off George Street, served a couple in their 70s this week. ”We’re making more money out of the food,” he said. ”We’re just giving the community what they want: intimacy.”
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The Sydney Morning Herald 2013 Good Food Guide, presented by Vittoria and Citibank has been unveiled. With more than 600 reviews of NSW’s best restaurants by the Herald’s esteemed food critics. Best of all, this Saturday, it’s just $10 when you buy the Herald, a saving of $15. Plus subscribers can reserve a copy at their newsagent now.
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This story Administrator ready to work first appeared on Nanjing Night Net.