Sydney's hip chicken spot explosion continues with Whirly Bird joining the burgeoning flock currently populated by Le Coq, Juicy Lucy, Belles Hot Chicken, Butter, Chicken Institute and Thirsty Bird.
Whirly Bird has slotted into the vacancy left by 84 Union St. in Pyrmont. Keeping the bones of the former bar, the cosmetic refit includes a chequerboard ceiling, dangling dome lights and large half-moon mirrors, in the style of a retro American cafeteria. It’s enhanced by a soundtrack plucked from the fifties and sixties, with a good dose of surf instrumental.
At Whirly Bird, Anthony Prior, formerly of Keystone Group, is collaborating with two other ex-Keystone colleagues, Rollo Anderson and Liam Doherty-Penzer, from The Rook.
The pair have collated their musically inspired cocktail magic inside record covers – mine features accomplished baritone, Harry Secombe.
Sgt. Peppers ($17) arrives with an appropriate Beatles coaster. It's a quaffable blend of Pisco, guava and bitters with a grapefruit twist. Pink peppercorns nudge it from being a pretty drink to something a bit more serious. Appearing under a Tom Waits’ coaster, Frank’s Wild Years ($18), envelops you in a cloud of ‘coffee and cigarettes’. It’s a Scotch-based cocktail that drinks smoothly and inclines me to want another.
Both cocktails are a little on the small side, so you might want a Wild Yak Pacific Ale ($9/400ml) chaser if you’re actually thirsty (water is for wusses after all).
While you can head down the bar snacks or burger route, it’s actually very easy to construct a well-priced, reasonably healthy sharing meal here. With spit roasted quarter chickens on offer, we're able to pit Butterflied & Spiced ($10/quarter) and Whole Brined Overnight ($12/quarter) against A Bunch of Crispy Bird ($18/5 pieces) without blowing the budget. Wild fennel, sage and liver stuffing gives a meaty complexity to the juicy, flavoursome brined bird.
Lemon, peri peri and marjoram keep the butterflied version light and bright, combining into a lovely chicken jus.
With our fried bird, we had trouble choosing between the chilli, honey caramel, and Whirly Bird’s house-made barbeque sauce, so we asked for both, with the chilli honey caramel proving the best. While the pieces of this one seem small, it’s because they have been really well manicured. I kept expecting to find little bones, but they’re not there.
Half-serve sides mean two-ups like us don’t feel like inconveniences in a bar geared towards groups. White Guy Kimchi Slaw ($5) - a salad taming the Korean staple - keeps my dining companion’s obsession with fermentation at bay.
I’m kept happy with some greens in the form of Sprouts, Cabbage and Broccoli ($5) cooked in miso and sesame oil with a crisp eschalot topping. My only gripe – even with an empty bar, the fast-paced kitchen ignored our charming Italian waitress’s instruction to go slow and not bring everything at once. She was profoundly apologetic.
While it would be easy to dismiss Whirly Bird as just another hipster chicken joint, it's actually a good spot to eat a well-priced and surprisingly honest chicken dinner.
84 Union Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9660 7134