MissDissent (missdissent) wrote,

Event - The Birdcage

When a chook shop has a burlesque night have we reached peak burlesque saturation in Sydney? This question was on my mind when I accepted an invitation to preview The Birdcage, a new dinner and burlesque cabaret show at Whirly Bird in Pyrmont.

Kicking off this Saturday evening (14 April), The Birdcage is intended to be a weekly affair. It will delivers you dinner (a three-course meal) and a show, for just shy of $90, with your spend including a welcoming flute of Mumm 'Grand Cordon' Champagne (normally $18/glass) to get you in the mood for titillation.

If this is your first burlesque adventure, and you feel the need for more lubrication, you’ll find The Birdcage bar in full cocktail-making operation.


They’ve got a short list of burlesque inspired drinks, like Shaken & Fun ($18) a gin, grapefruit, peach and bubbles combination that wasn’t my thing; and a more complex Stirred & Serious ($18) affair of gin, Champagne and dill reduction, Suze Gentian and grapefruit bitters, that I enjoyed. You can also order from Whirly Bird’s regular list – my go-to is Frank’s Wild Years ($18) a smokin’ blend of Scotch and Suze Gentian with ruby grapefruit. I tried to like Dusty in Memphis ($18), which sees rye, Cocchi Americano and lemon mingle with beetroot Fanta Tang,  but despite the burlesque-appropriate deep magenta hue, and my own propensity for weird cocktails, the bafflingly salty drink was a bridge too far.

With the 1920s Great Gatsby-style theming to the night, I was surprised the bar ignored the obvious classics, like the French 75, Mint Julep and South Side. You can however opt for a pre-Prohibition era drink in the form of the House Martini ($18). With the house pour – Tanqueray gin - and thyme-infused vermouth, it’s an easy-drinker, though for once, I’m going to say the Ketel One Vodkatini ($18) was better.

Sufficiently lubricated, I finally take a good look around. For a chicken restaurant, Whirly Bird scrubs up a surprisingly well as a cabaret club.

The night is actually a strange collision of worlds for me, as I’ve booked burlesque acts for over two decades in my own monthly club night, The Sydney Hellfire Club.

Former-showgirl, dance choreographer and “showgirl fairy godmother”, Wendy Brown has put together the show via her company WB Productions. Wendy is best known for putting on larger scale shows in suburban clubs, like Marrickville RSL's topless review, Canterbury Leagues, Bankstown Sports and Revesby Workers.

From her performers, including hostess Robyn Loau, you get a lot of spinning, singing and sequins for your spend.

Wendy has pitched her show directly at mainstream audiences, using popular (though not era specific) numbers like Chita Rivera’s All That Jazz, and Carmen Miranda’s earworm, I, Yi, Yi, Yi, Yi (I Like You Very Much).

By and large the show is light-hearted, upbeat and coy, bar from an out-of-place chair dance by Ivy Mystique that broke away from the coquettish charm of classic burlesque.


From the two star acts – Porcelain Alice and Diesel Darling – you get a real glimpse of what Sydney burlesque is capable of. The featured performers, who are both responsible for their own spectacular costumes (a cut above those of Brown’s showgirls), both work the audience with nuance and sophistication.

Alabaster-skinned Porcelain Alice outdoes Dita Von Teese in a spectacular pale pink sequined outfit, complete with flouncy ostrich feather hat, undulating fans, and an air of lip-curling contempt that's quite compelling; before returning to the stage later in the evening with a serpentine reptile.

Similarly, Diesel Darling does a beautifully costumed, classy number with well-placed fringing and light up wings to showcase her strength and powerful allure.

In between sets you’re served a meal in three stages. The shared entrée platter featuring mozzarella and saffron arancini, treacle-cured salmon, salumi and antipasti, duck liver parfait and crushed edamame and jalapeno guacamole with tostada chips; is generous, if incoherent. Some platter elements, like the grey, oxidised parfait, would benefit visually and texturally from being pulled out of refrigeration later, though it still ate well with date relish, smeared onto lavosh crackers.

The kitchen missed some obvious puns by moving away from their do you prefer breast or thigh, poultry stomping ground.

That’s not to say the apple and fennel-stuffed pork and the well-rendered slow-roast duck leg weren’t tasty.

Both ate well against chilled green bean salad, with fennel, hazelnut and tarragon; roast carrots with pomegranate, pistachio and mint yoghurt; and duck fat-roasted potatoes with Parmesan and thyme that would have been excellent if they were hot.

While non-heated plates were a problem during my visit, because I’ve already dined here, I’m inclined to say they likely won’t be when you visit, as this was the restaurant’s first whole-of-restaurant gig.

Do remember that this isn’t Whirly Bird food, but banquet food, so if you’re keen on really seeing what this restaurant can do, The Birdcage isn’t the night to come.

With the decimation of Oxford Street from the Liberal Lockout Laws, the advantage this spot has over similar offerings at Slide, is better food, and the opportunity to kick on at The Star afterwards if gambling and drinking is your thing.

Oh and don’t fret a “bad” table, the show roves all over the dining room.

Before you cringe, the audience participation is quite minimal, bar from my dining companion having tequila free-poured down his throat.

Nothing the performers did required anyone to leave their seat - and after all the cocktails you will undoubtedly consume, that's probably safest. Plan to arrive and leave with Uber, because even the concluding banana semifreddo hides a little rum kick.

Whirly Bird
84 Union Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9660 7134

Whirly Bird Menu, Reviews, Photos, Location and Info - Zomato

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Review - Whirly Bird

Does My Bomb Look Big In This?

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.

Whirly Bird
84 Union Street, Pyrmont
Ph: (02) 9660 7134
Tags: cocktails, events, food

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