The Victoria Room is dimly lit, from eccentric lamps; filled with mis-matched antiques like chaise lounges, stuffed velvet chairs, and arm chairs you can really sink into. There are potted palms, and curtains that can give you semi-private rooms, but it is all actually part of one large space. It represents a little slice of Melbourne carving some diversity into the Sydney restaurant scene if you ask me. The music is appropriately hip - think Thievery Corporation.
The miracle maker is Simon Keene who is behind a very fabulous cocktail list. You are looking at The Australis ($16)* which is the cocktail answer to molecular gastronomy - it tastes like an Australian bush fire in a glass - burnt eucalyptus. It is his uniquely Australian entry into the Bols International Challenge - world-wide cocktail competition. The list is 7 pages or 75 cocktails long - you can study it before going HERE.
Craig chose a Vanilla Zest Martini ($16) which contained Wyborowa vodka, fresh vanilla bean, sugar syrup, flamed orange zest. I took this photo from below to show how much wonderful vanilla it contained.
There were more cocktails. I got more flippant about writing down what they were... one of these is a West Indies Yellow Bird ($17). You get the picture, cocktail heaven... so many choices!
So we needed some Turkish Flat Bread with Zat’ar and Olive Oil ($7) to soak up some alcohol - or to "round out the corners" as suggested by our performative waiter (He also was overheard saying to a neighbouring table: "So do you want Chateau Warragamba, or would you prefer fancy water from Norway or France or somewhere?") Waiters are encouraged to have personality at this restaurant... I liked it.
My favourite menu item was the Kingfish Carpaccio ($17), made more interesting by a layer of toasted capers, and basil infused olive oil.
There was a close second though - deep fried cheese is always going to be a winner for me. The dish is called Fried Goats Cheese Balls with Onion Jam and Truffled Honey ($14) and it was creamy, and wonderful to eat, going with the next dish perfectly too.
I also really was impressed with the Duo of Caramelised Warm Baby Beets with Dutch Carrots ($14) in terms of both taste and quality of their produce. In fact, vegetarians had at least seven options on the evening we dined, and it's not a huge menu.
We also had Oven Roasted Moroccan Spiced Chicken on Burghul, Almond, Date and Parsley Pilaf ($20) which was nice, but not outstanding. As you can see, it's all tapas-style sharing plates, and they suggest you order 2-3 per person.
Least exciting was the trio of sorbets - Coconut and Kaffir Lime, Blood Orange and Passionfruit ($13) which were bought in, and had a passionfruit flavour so acidic it'd probably have stripped paint.
By the way, the toilets were lovely, with a sitting chair, and Aesop products. I am looking forward to trying their High Tea ($30/$40 head) in a few weeks for Katrina's Baby Shower... I bet a cocktail or two will be consumed (by me, not her, I am sure she is a very responsible mother-to-be).
The Victoria Room
Level 1, 235 Victoria Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9357 4488
* Australis Recipe
1/4 Smoked Lime, muddled
30ml Eucalyptus Syrup
40ml Lemon Juice
20ml Hibiscus Juice
15ml Peach Liqueur
12ml Jaggard Quandong
40ml Tanqueray 10
dash of egg white
smell of burnt eucalypt