Recently I had the very good fortune of catching up with my good friend, Maureen, and her husband, John, while they were briefly in Sydney.
Along with Tania, we decided to meet for dinner at Downstairs Restaurant in Darlinghurst. But situated directly above Downstairs is The Hazy Rose, an intimate and charming bar where we decided to meet first for a drink.
Walking in to The Hazy Rose is wonderful. British inspired, the bar is decorated with a ‘roaring 40’s’ style and filled with vintage furniture. There are cosy places to enjoy a drink like little booths, upholstered chairs surrounding an antique table, up at the bar or even on a church pew.
The lighting is dim but in a flattering way rather than being so dark you can’t make your way to the bar without a cane. This is a bar with great appeal and it oozes with character.
There are so many delightful places within The Hazy Rose to enjoy a drink that I had trouble deciding where I might sit. I chose a seat near the window that opens onto a balcony overlooking the street and waited for Maureen, John and Tania.
There is a wonderful cocktail menu with all the classics like whiskey sours and cosmopolitans and then there are the beers and wines. The wines are mostly from Australia and as it was a hot night and I wanted something refreshing, I decided on a glass of rose from the Barossa Valley.
When everyone arrived we enjoyed a very relaxed and wonderful drink together before heading ‘downstairs’ to ‘Downstairs’.
Recently opened, Downstairs shares the same owners as The Hazy Rose. Just like the bar, Downstairs is proudly British and serves up-market styled British classics like colcannon, black pudding and bubble and squeak. The decor is retro British with booth seating, banquettes and bentwood chairs. The lighting is subdued which is lovely for diners but challenging for photographers.
We sat at a table close to the bi-fold doors that opened onto the verandah. We started by sharing a few entrees. The first was the chicken liver parfait with curried apple sauce, pickles and wholemeal toast. This was my favourite dish of the evening. The parfait was beautifully smooth and I do love pickles with a parfait. The serving was very generous and well plated.
I’m very keen on asparagus so we ordered the warm asparagus entree with beetroot, granny smith, creme fraiche and puy lentil dressing. As asparagus isn’t in season, I did wonder where it was sourced. This was another favourite dish of mine as none of the other flavours dominated the asparagus and the spears were vibrantly green and still with some crunch.
For a main I ordered the chargrilled spatchcock with roast garlic, dutch carrots, courgettes and tarragon sauce. Spatchcock can be difficult to cook as being a small bird it’s easy to overcook and have it end up dry but this was perfectly cooked and very tender. I just would have liked a little more sauce.
John ordered the 250gm Top sirloin with crumbed marrow, parsley relish, mustard and fat chips. He ordered it medium rare and it was, however he found the sirloin to be very tough and difficult to chew. He did love his very generous serving of fat chips and ate them all.
Maureen ordered the pork tenderloin with crumbed belly, honey glazed chicory, pear, fennel and celery salad. While the pork still had a pink hue and so was not over-cooked, the dish definitely needed more sauce as there just wasn’t enough causing the dish to lack oomph.
Tania ordered the market fish of the day that was crispy blue-eyed trevalla with samfire, mussels, saffron potatoes with a lemon, caper and parsley butter. There was a wonderful combination of ingredients in this dish, especially with the samfire. The fish was very tender and broke up with a nudge from the fork and hooray, there was plenty of sauce.
We didn’t need dessert but couldn’t leave without one. It was Maureen and John’s wedding anniversary so appropriately they shared a milk chocolate marquise with honeycomb and strawberries. They did find it very rich and the honeycomb had gone a bit gooey but it was a very hot and humid night and those are the conditions that wreck havoc on honeycomb.
Tania and I shared the three-cheese platter with apple chutney, quince and lavosh. Would anyone mind if I announced I’m not a fan of lavosh? I prefer a much harder cracker with more crunch but anyway, the three cheeses were excellent and nicely at room temperature. I thought the apple chutney went so well with the blue cheese.
Downstairs is a British-inspired restaurant that offers a cosy dining experience. The menu isn’t extensive but adequate for the size of the restaurant. The wait staff are very attentive and always nearby without hovering. The food needs a few tweaks here and there but overall, if you are nostalgic for a British-inspired menu, you will love Downstairs. And definitely start off at The Hazy Rose.
Verdict: Somewhere for the ex-pats.
Downstairs Restaurant: 83 Stanley Street, Darlinghurst, NSW 2010
Tel. 0420 645 373
And thank you Maureen, John and Tania for your wonderful company xx