As many of you may be able to attest, I'm not really a pub or club kind of girl. Sport blaring from television sets, garish sporting colours, people who follow sport and beer-filled louts all number amongst things I usually avoid exposure to. Screaming "concede" at the digital projection on our wall as Kevin Rudd romped it home in a landslide was as close as I have ever got to being a supporter.
So you'd expect that I would find a review meal at Club Swans a bit onerous, but it was far from it - in fact, I have to report, not a jersey to be seen, no beer swilling louts, no loud sport, and even stylishly housed flat screen televisions that didn't blare so loud you noticed them!
I will admit to having dined here before (it was my partner's local) but since that time they have done a wonderful refit. The refit is both intimate and elegant, with lots of different spaces to suit different moods. As for the dining, you can dine anywhere in the club, but you order your meal on level one.
Near the bistro is this space, but there are also two great outdoor terraces (one fronting onto the busy Darlinghurst Road, one going back towards Ward Avenue), lounge bars and even some areas that are mercifully television free!
Another strong point is that they have some of the best wine by the glass prices in town ($4-$8.50), which I understand reduce even further if you are a member. We had the most expensive wine, a Tempus Two Pinot Gris ($59) with dinner, but also enjoyed a wonderful glass of The Pioneers Raisined Muscat ($4.50/glass) with dessert. By the way, you can dine here without being a member if you live outside a 5km radius of Club Swans. However for those who live close by, annual membership is a bargain at only $5.50.
The bistro chef at Club Swans, Michael Milkovic, does an excellent job in the kitchen of this newly renovated space, walking the fine line between bistro classics and restaurant cuisine. (His lovely wife who works the front of house told us a funny story about the Salt and Pepper Squid with Pickled Cucumber Salad, and a customer coming back saying he: "didn't like that cucumber stuff, can he have some tartare" which kind of highlights the tightrope one needs to walk to please everyone who comes into a club bistro environment.)
We started with the house special of Chilli, Cheddar and Honey Bread ($7.50) which I liked. I saw the serving sizes at the open bistro counter, and decided against entrees, as I knew there would be a lot of food already (so it's in no way an reflection on their entrees that we didn't partake).
So straight on to the large mains... The most expensive dish he serves, a New York 350g Sirloin with king prawns and porcini mushroom butter ($25), was excellent and complimented by snow peas so fresh I asked if he grew them himself (he doesn’t, but he does visit the markets himself twice a week to ensure the produce he serves is at its best - apparently they tried using suppliers, and this wasn't possible with them). There was also a square of the best Lyonnaise potatoes I have tried to date.
A braised rack of Pork Ribs in Hoi Sin Sauce with Sesame Noodles ($22) was also impressive, and a big serve.
I was delighted with their housemade dessert - a Raspberry and White Chocolate Bread and Butter Pudding ($8.50) with ice-cream, and walked away from the whole experience feeling like I would return. A good advance on the part of clubs and pubs everywhere, in making me like them!
Kelly's Bistro, Club Swans
28 Darlinghurst Road, Kings Cross
Ph: (02) 8061 2300