Where: 371 - 373 Bourke St Darlinghurst 2010
Opening Hours: Tue - Sat 4pm - 11pm, Sun 3pm - 10pm
A few years ago, drinkers could rightly complain that there weren't enough small bars in Sydney. Now, you can't walk down an alley without smirking at Melbourne's toppled stranglehold on hidden back-lane treasures.
What Sydney hasn't managed to do successfully is import an authentic tapas experience to a relaxed bar atmosphere … until now. Sure, Bodega and El Bulli are tasty, but set within the confines of a more structured dining experience, as opposed to the Spaniards' bar-hopping style of dining. You don't sit at a table in Barcelona or Madrid, you eat at the bar.
New kid in Darlinghurst, Foley Lane, is undoubtedly the city's best place to do this. Hidden behind the Oxford Hotel on the quieter side of Taylor Square, its shiny tiles and clean lines don't immediately scream tapas. The renovated art deco ground floor area is half bar, half casual dining.
Owners Nathan Moses and Julian Marchetto have wisely attracted Spanish/Chilean chef Nelson Burgos from Melbourne to conjure up 19 dishes, the best of which is deceptive braised WA octopus with a lime mayonnaise side dish ($9). It's deceptive because, frankly, it doesn't have the texture or taste of octopus.
Opening with the shredded chicken tostada with an avocado, onion and coriander mix and chilli sauce ($4.50), a six-plate selection continues with lightly fired and battered whitebait with aioli ($7), beautifully braised longaniza (small chorizo sausages) with pimento (those heart-shaped little chilli peppers) ($14), and a salad of ubiquitous fennel, cabbage, mint and fetta ($7).
Lastly, a calamari slider ($4), Foley Lane's seafood equivalent of Ms. G's pork belly bun, if not as tasty. Calamari, rocket sauce and chilli in a tiny sandwich, it's the most modern spin on tapas tonight. As for drinks, there's obviously sangria by the litre (red or white, both $35), a bevy of Spanish beers and wine, but the main draw to the bar is the inventive cocktails.
Try the kickin' Taylor Square Spice ($18), a Singleton 12yr single malt blended with spiced apple, and homemade paprika syrup, or the Pamela ($18), named after a drunken evening spent with the landlord at the bar, Tanqueray gin, cucumber and lime.
Desserts consist of the obligatory churros with a caramel Manjar dip ($2.50 each) or a Catalan mint flan ($8), essentially a crème caramel with a slightly peppermint taste.
Foley Lane is a breath of fresh air in the light décor, affable staff and servings.
By David Lappin
Braised WA octopus with a lime mayonnaise side dish
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