Sydney is yet to have an officially-declared small bar precinct, but if it did The Swinging Cat would be at its epicentre. All that competition might explain why this bar excels in a range of ways. It doesn’t start off so well as you have to head into the same entrance that leads to Subway, smells and all, but take a quick left down the stairs and the atmosphere changes into a friendly, softly lit venue with genuinely friendly service.
While it may be located at basement, there are many half windows that let ambient light from the evening sun during summer, and street lights as it gets darker. All this creates a sense of shadow play as crowds of people pass by, visible from only the knee down. The modern dark interior and plush couches add to the feeling that you are inside a calm place away from the nearby hustle and bustle. Add to this a mix of music played at levels where you can easily talk and a floorplan that breaks up the venue into smaller sections, and you have one of best places in the area to grab a drink.
The theme here is French New Orleans and its influence goes well beyond the décor of a baby grand piano, pictures of trumpets and jazz singers. It also heavily features on both cocktail and food menus, with the flagship cocktail ‘Sazerac’ ($19). Think of it is an old-fashioned made with cognac instead of whiskey. It packs a stronger taste than your usual fruity options but the sweetness and bitters perfectly mesh with the cognac. Regular old fashioneds are worth a try too ($18), but expect to be talked into the Sazerac. special.
The cheese plate may be local but it is a standout. Avoid touching some of the softer cheeses with your hands, or be prepared to be smelling them until you can wash with soap. Flavour-wise, they are simultaneously strong and smooth on the palate. Maybe something simpler is what you want, in that case check out the toasties on offer or ramp it up with seasonal New Orleans inspired food with a spicy kick.
In brief: The Swinging CatBest things: Good cocktails, lively but not too noisy venue, lighting. Ideal for: Small groups, catch-ups with friends, dates Date tip: A great date venue with plenty of couches and things to talk about if the conversation stalls. Couches on your left of the entrance are good (pictured above) but for more privacy head around to the far right corner beyond the bar. Gripes: Subway smell at the street entrance Rating: 8/10
Last updated: November 2016
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