After descending deep into subterranean Sydney and walking down a long dark corridor that gives you a physical transition from the hectic pace of Pitt Street, you reach a juncture where instructions are printed on a wall. Three knocks will see you gain you entrance to Door Knock, a subterranean bar with a log cabin feel.
It’s a warm wooden womb without a view, though there are windows, and shelves of ye olde knickknacks.
Overhead, hanging grape vines, wooden rafters and fairy lights conceal the basement fixtures, along with sheets of rusty corrugated iron over the bar.
Wooden wedge shelves turn a space-sensitive long banquette into a series of intimate booths.
Along with the dangling rope room dividers, this carpentry gives the space a faintly nautical feel, like you’re sitting in steerage down in the lower hold of a wooden sailing ship.
Appropriately then, my first cocktail is a Mez-sage In A Bottle ($22), poured at the table after bobbing over from the bar. It’s a beautifully integrated blend of smoky sage mezcal, Dom Benedictine, and acidulated apricot nectar (to stop it being sweet and cloying) with a sea salt rim and an edible garnish of apricot and sesame seed paper. Smoky and salty, it’s hard to untangle but oh-so-easy to drink. A study in contrasts, Nut Milk City Limits ($21) takes the sailor’s favourite poison – Coco Lopez Washed Plantation Rum – and teams it with Yellow Chartreuse, salted macadamia and sesame orgeat with a dusting of nutmeg. It’s a beautifully soft rum cocktail, and the best nut milk drink I’ve ever had, with the macadamia and sea salt coming through particularly well at the bottom of the drink.
With our whistles well whetted, we relax enough to look around, and notice nobody in the popular, 90-seater bar is on their mobile phone. This enforced interaction comes from being so deep underground there’s absolutely no mobile reception. I have to say I like it.
The food menu is a short, please-all collection of drinking snacks plus a couple of dishes that could serve as solo mains if you feel inclined to stay through dinner. We kick off with Mini Corn Dogs ($12) slathered in chunky tomato relish with a tangy side of American mustard. Since we’ve gone all Americana, I switch to a more appropriate Woodford Rye-based cocktail called The Carrot Whispers ($23). While it isn’t quite as bright a star as our first two drinks, it’s notable for the seamless way that Campari and Averna (Italian bitters) merge with the Kentucky rye whiskey, carrot and cardamom honey, so no one flavour jumps out and shouts: “Look at meeee.” And how cute do those rounded little carrot nubs look?!
Three cubic Mac’n’Cheese Croquettes ($16) certainly demonstrate that Door Knock have got their food costs nailed, but they’re so likeable, you’re probably not going to care.
Being old enough to care about vegetable balance even in our bar eats, we team them with a Radicchio and Buffalo Mozzarella Salad ($12) dotted with candied walnuts, crisp green pear slices and rocket. Bound by a honey and apple vinaigrette, it’s nothing to write a postcard home about, but a good companion dish to a simple, citrussy Coffele Soave Classico ($15/glass) from co-owner Natalie Ng’s interesting wine list.
Service is good, and reasonably attentive given the size of the bar, expertly steering my dining companion away from a natural wine, while still bringing a taster over to assure him he made the right choice. With a strong showing in sherry, Door Knock had left me with enough drinking options for a return visit next time I want respite from the hustle and bustle of Pitt Street.
B2, 70 Pitt Street, Sydney
Ph: none provided