The Owl House has always been the kind of small bar where people quickly know your name. After an initial visit in 2012, I became somewhat of a regular, dropping back in whenever I had a review in the ‘hood. Longstanding bartender Owen Davies would get a Corpse Reviver # 2 up on the bar virtually as soon as I poked my head into the Crown Street doorway.
The other attraction of the place was the talented Roy Ner – a chef I still eagerly follow to this day. At a time when bar food usually meant dive bar eats – hot dogs, sliders and tacos - Ner put up plates that screamed restaurant quality without the fussy trappings. While The Owl House also offered a popular cocktail degustation, it was the kind of food that called for the sophistication of wine. Their boutique, fifty-odd bottle wine list, all hand chosen by owner Amir Halpert, was always able to answer that call, usually delivered with an explanatory story to bond you to the wine. Tonight it’s the 2015 Torbrek ‘Woodcutters’ Roussanne Viognier Marsanne ($55) followed by a jammy off-list 2016 Harris Grenache by the same winemaker.
Knowing that the closure of this bar was imminent, I popped back in for a sad farewell, thinking it would be their last week. A last minute reprieve has meant they’ll still be operating until Saturday 14 July, so you’ve still got nearly two weeks to enjoy their current chef’s Pambula Oysters ($4/each) presented under a chilly mound of chardonnay vinegar sorbet.
While saying goodbye is never easy, here it’s alleviated by the fact it’s just the four walls you’ll be missing. Amir and his team will be reopening a new and improved Owl House at 292 Victoria St in Darlinghurst in the old Tigerbakers site. I console myself by popping two oxtail and bone marrow Croquettes ($7/each) into my gob rapid fire, their richness offset by the seeded mustard that glues them to the plate.
I lose myself in a classic Beef Tartare ($22) with eye-catching presentation, and good balance from capers, eschallots, parsley, chives, sherry vinegar and a quail egg yolk you stir through yourself. Blobs of mustard allow you to control sharpness too, as you consume your raw beef on a handful of crackers.
My dining companion goes for a Pork Loin ($34) main that could easily be a fast dinner for one on the way home from a late night at work. Smoked carrot puree joins fennel, red cabbage, fresh green apple and crackling on the well-kempt plate. It lacks the heights of Ner's cooking, but avoids rookie errors and shows room to grow.
I eschew my usual liquid dessert – the chocolate martini here is legendary – for Pineapple 3-Ways ($14). Despite the dated name, it’s a modern-looking U.F.O. of dehydrated, caramelised and grilled pineapple hidden inside a fluffy cloud of coconut, capped off with a sphere of pistachio ice cream. A sweet end in more ways than one that makes me all the more eager to meet The Owl House Version 2.0. I’m sure it’ll be a hoot.
The Owl House
97 Crown Street, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9357 5060