It had been way too long since my last visit to The Owl House - a bar that wormed its way into my heart in 2012. Charismatic owner Amir Halpert threw me straight into The Dog House. While I was willing to take one on the chin for neglecting my favourite bar, it turned out this wasn’t meant as a punishment. It’s actually the name of their new Thursday night initiative, where diners can chow down on dangerously good hot dawgs matched to whiskey or beer.
Now before you get all twitchy about sausages containing filler, let me assure you that while sausage did mean something very different when I was a kid, The Owl House's snags are the bomb. The three sausages I wrapped my lips around during my time in this bar were all top notch, and made in-house. I count myself as lucky to have tried three, generally they’ll be presenting a single (and fully-customisable) hot dog option: Tonight’s Dawg ($12).
Don't get too excited: first read the beautiful letterpress menu card that offers up some booze-matching options. My recommendation is to hit up the Dawg + Buttered Fashioned ($25). This dangerously smooth Old Fashioned update involves butter-infused Bulleit Bourbon, honey and bitters, arriving in a tumbler with orange rind and a slow-melting ice sphere.
It’s a hit against tonight’s actual dawg – a tasty Merguez sausage. It arrives with a brioche hot dog bun on a board with sauerkraut, pickles and caramelised onions. Saucing is left entirely up to you – with a row of little jars left for you to investigate further. To my eye the earthy North African Merguez sausage suits the smoky chipotle, but don't let me hold you back: load up your doggie until it's full to bursting!
As luck would have it, on the Thursday I dined, I was also able to try a Balmain bug sausage in a Dawg + House Beer ($19) arrangement. The beer was Peroni Red (or Peroni, before it was ruined for export) and the sausage was a subtle beauty that was best matched to sweet onions and tartare.
Heed my advice and visit quickly, and you might be able to make your evening a multi-snag affair by eating a dawg as entrée, and moving onto Duck Cassoulet ($34). The latter dish is one of the cleanest and clearest renditions of cassoulet I’ve tried. This cleverly ensures each ingredient – including an excellent Tolouse sausage – is able to speak in turn. The cassoulet is centred upon a duck Maryland, which has oodles of flavour, backed up by sausage, lardons, beans, carrots and sweet onions, then further enriched by bone-marrow butter smeared upon bread.
You really want to enjoy this thoroughly modern cassoulet rendition before summer comes callin’. It also calls for wine, and The Owl House is very good at answering this kind of call. I tried it against an intriguingly wet 2014 Domaine Henri Delagrange Et Fils Aligoté ($13/glass). This white burgundy is soft and intriguing, and well versed at cutting duck fat. For a completely opposite wine to tackle this dish, the 2010 Chateau Bouscasse Jardins Petit Corbu, Peti Manseng ($14/glass) is richer and more syrupy, making it a good match to the pepper and spice in the cassoulet. Heck, have them both! You’re in a bar, and as yet the Liberal Government haven’t made any laws against double parking wine…
Now speaking of politics, as you venture merrily into the night, do heed this bar’s subtle plea to find all Australians as equally deserving of human rights.
The Owl House
97 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9357 5060