Sunday, May 3, 2009
The Local Taphouse, Darlinghurst
A few things I like about The Local Taphouse in Darlinghurst …
-Until recently, if you had to do a police-style sketch of a beer enthusiast, you might easily draw up someone a little red-faced and aggro: a person whose physical appearance basically blared "avoid for your own safety" and "don't invite to next party". So it's nice that The Local Taphouse are reinventing that idea, with a beer 'cafe' that serves craft brews, features beer matchings for its menu and holds social events that are about enjoying specialist drops (and not fast-tracking your ability to get plastered). Oh and they also hand-write the day's beer specials on a piece of paper. Old-school – how could you not like that (even if the strongest thing you ever order is lemon, lime and bitters)?
-New pubs seem to be either a time vault (complete with suspicious carpet and yeasty wall aroma inherited from previous owners) or hellishly steely-modern, shouting their futuristic design from angular, reflective surfaces (or kooky wallpaper mismatching). The Local Taphouse doesn't shun its pub origins, but it definitely has added a few eccentric visuals to add some charm. Any font nerd would like the random typeface letters scattered around the bar area. Next time, I'm looking forward to sneaking upstairs to see the pub's kooky-sweet birdcage and mirror collection.
-The little inventive touches on the menu. Like, the fact their burgers come with mayo that mixes Belgian beer Hoegaarden Wit with lemon myrtle. (Bonus points for using a native ingredient that should get a little more kitchen airplay.) Or the fact that they serve the burgers with wedges made of roast sweet potato and plain-ole-reliably-good nonsweet potato, sprinkled with salt flakes and rosemary. Also, I was happy my Veggie Burger ($16.50) was not one of those weird crumbed patties full of camouflaged ingredients, but made of actual foods you might recognise from a garden or the fancy part of your deli (pumpkin, eggplant, sweet potato, mozzarella, feta, parmesan & napoli sauce). It's not edgy cuisine but it's comforting, cosy food – perfect for a season that's measured in temperature drops.
-Oh and if you like the sound of the beer that has been matched to your dish, you can upsize from the small suggested serving. For example, Will had the Chicken Burger ($16.50), which – besides the obvious – is heaped with Thai basil, chilli and lime leaf, rocket, and bonus chilli zing from the Bridge Road Chevalier Saison chilli jam. The Local Taphouse menu says it goes well with Little Creatures US Pale Ale (90ml sampler $2.60) but Will just wondered, why stop at 90ml and downed a full-sized glass.
-When you order, the staff put all your dining-neccessary paraphernalia – cutlery, serviettes, salt & pepper shakers – plus your order number in a small metal bucket for you to conveniently carry to your table. It's a really simple idea but I'm a big fan of it. Because it's a pain to juggle all that and your drinks as you slowly navigate the armful across the room. And I'm a serial drink-spiller and don't need the extra beverage-saving anxiety on top of the cutlery-clutching and sign-wielding issues. Plus, it looks kinda classy and is fun to swing, a little.
One thing we learned the hard way …
We'd read that the Local Taphouse stayed open 'til 1am on a Saturday – a discovery we relished one night, when it was near 11pm and we were becoming hunger Frankensteins from not yet having dinner. Not only were we snapping and starving, but we kept circling the pub, unable to find a park – over and over, we kept getting close to the pub but couldn't actually pull over and go in. It was like Groundhog Day, but with stomach pains. Finally, we found one. By then, it was pouring hard with rain and we were soaked by the time we splashed through the shoe-soaking puddles and umbrella-strafing downpour. We were so relieved when we were inside the warm pub and started flipping through the menu. It was then we learned the kitchen had already shut up for the night – it closes at 10pm on a Saturday. So we'd played carpark roulette and gotten drenched for nothing. Don't let that happen to you!
Kitchen-closing hours and crazy rain aside, The Local Taphouse seems to be a nice joint to take refuge in as the cold weather starts to frost up. Just bring some boots and a military-issue umbrella, just in case Mother Nature wants to ruin your craft-beer-sampling or burger-munching plans.
The Local Taphouse, 122 Flinders St, Darlinghurst NSW (02) 9360 0088, www.thelocal.com.au