Sydney’s Best Laneway Bar – Grasshopper – Review

2010 has been the year of the ‘small bar’ revolution in Sydney. We’ve seen a new bar setting up shop almost every month. Grasshopper – one of the best – has only just opened and it is a cut above the rest in every way possible. Located way off the beaten track, it’s tucked away on Temperance Lane. You’ll find the little passage way just off George Street, in the CBD, and no, it isn’t easy to spot. One, you’ve got to be looking for it, and two, most maps won’t have the laneway listed. When you do finally find it though, you are in for a real treat!

Grasshopper is the brainchild of Martin O’Sullivan, John Toubia, Richard Duff and Belinda Lai. These guys were responsible for the pop-up bar, 7M and we’ve spotted them kicking around at The Lincoln and A Tavola in previous years too. They picked up their skills, ideas and inspirations from their three previous stints and this one is a perfect fusion of everything we want in a bar. It’s cute and very kitschy.

At first glance, the decor seems a little “WHAT THE?” I mean, come on, there is a patch of grass over the front of the door. The place is then set out over two levels. The first, is the bar, the second is the restaurant. The bar area has pictures of Chinese men doing kung fu along the far side. In keeping with the sustainable concept most establishments seem to be adopting, they’ve reused old records as drink coasters and the lamps and armchairs were gathered from various auctions. The upper level has dim lighting, low tables and a TV stuck on static.

For food, we opt for the amazing prawn cocktail. Now, don’t think you’re getting the type of prawn cocktail you might pick up at the local RSL. At Grasshopper, the prawns are king sized, grilled and topped with slithers of mango, leafs of butter lettuce and avocado puree. I hear the steak au poivre and the pork and parsley terrine are good too. To make a trip to Grasshopper really worthwhile though, you must taste the chocolate and pistachio tart.

The drinks are really what I’m gushing over. Served in recycled olive jars, there all given numbers rather than proper names. I like the concept of drinking out of a jar. Not only are we being sustainable, but it’s a little bit quirky and fun. I love the Number 3. Gin, vermouth, orange, campari and raspberry syrup are tantalizingly swirled together to create the ideal balance of sweet and sour. A few of their cocktails, like the Number 7, are presented in glasses, but we all agree they don’t hold the same level of appeal.

Drinking at Grasshopper isn’t a cheap night out. Sure, if you are able to control yourself, you’ll walk home with change in your pockets. Once you’re here though, you’ll see how hard it is to leave without testing everything they have to offer. There isn’t a security guard ticking names off at the door and as far as outfits go, it’s whatever floats your boat. Grasshopper got the prize for Best Small Business in 2010 and yet, the place isn’t pretenscious. Rather, it holds oodles of class and unlike other establishments around Sydney, manages to be a little bit fancy without being boring. What more can I say? I love, love, love it! BOLA TANGKAS