By Lenny Ann Low
The Sydney Morning Herald
Photo: Domino Postiglione
Think bar food and you might think nuts. Warmed nuts, shelled nuts, nuts covered in salt. Salt, of course, makes you thirsty and when you’re thirsty you need a drink and, look, you’re in a bar so, bartender, another martini, please. That’s the trick of nuts.
Speaking as a glutton, I believe bar food is as important as the drinks. After a long day at the coalface, a drink may be your only conscious thought by home time but drinks without food aren’t sensible at the dinner hour. A bowl of salty nuts or, indeed, chips mid-libation won’t do it.
Pubs and bars have tastier and more nutritious bar food available these days but, once a month, Danks Street Depot trumps everyone in this area. The second Thursday of each month is Bar Food Night at Danks Street Depot. From 6pm, drink and food lovers can share a menu conceived at 8am on the same day by chef-owner Jared Ingersoll, his chefs and bartender. Ingersoll’s philosophy is to use seasonal and locally grown fresh produce to create dishes to be shared. He also opened a cocktail bar in late 2005.
The night I visited, the bunker-like structure that is 2 Danks Street – a complex of galleries, a second-hand shop and Ingersoll’s respected restaurant and bar – glows with warm light. It’s chilly and quiet on the footpath but inside, the concrete floor and high warehouse ceilings are warmed by wooden furniture, a wooden-topped bar and light from bronze-coloured lampshades.
The restaurant tables are almost full but there are unoccupied seats at the bar.
A waiter explains how the bar-and-food night works: “You order drinks and plates of food to share and we bring them out as soon as they’re ready.”
Easy enough. I order a delicious feijoa martini (feijoa, absinthe, caramelised sugar, vodka, lemon juice) with companions ordering an apple flower (elderflower, apple, vodka) and a pomegranate bellini (Chambord liqueur, pomegranate, bubbly), glasses of shiraz and food.
Minutes later it’s on for young and old. I’ve barely sipped the feijoa when the chickpea puree with flat bread ($10.50) arrives. It is followed swiftly by chat potatoes fried in red wine ($10), celeriac and buffalo cheese fritters ($15), polenta cake ($16) and fried baby squid ($22). Flavours, plates and conversation race as more wine, another martini, a crumbed lamb croquette ($22) and a barbecue chicken leg served with roasted carrots and harissa ($18) arrive. They are delivered by a waiter who calls us her “lovelies” – “Lovelies, here are your cocktails” and “Have you finished with that, my lovelies?”
Everything is lovely although our gluttony has produced a hefty bill and it was a struggle to divide the chicken leg. Pah! Better that than wrangling over salty nuts any day.