What used to be the luminously orange Bar Betty is now a sleek candlelit local that looks like a cross between an office from Mad Men and an entomologist’s lab. Brick walls are mounted with light boxes depicting moths and the seating runs to ’60s swivel stools, comfy felt banquettes and leather poufs, occupied by couples and small groups of local punters shooting the breeze.
This is Grant Jacobs’ first crack at owning or even running a bar, so while the service is enthusiastic, things can be a little chaotic at times.
The liquor cabinet is well stocked with boutique spirits with a strong focus on gin and Cognac, but you can hit and miss with drinks depending on who’s putting them together. We hit on one visit with a smoked whisky Old Fashioned and then strike out twice with a bitter Campari, gin and elderflower Martini and slightly flabby salted caramel Margarita. Chin up, though, because word is that a new bar manager is on the way.
Crunchy polenta chips and vegetable spring rolls provide decent ballast, but some breath-defying oniony bruschetta and limp tempura prawns might not be your best snacking option when a Jimmy Grants souvlaki or Huxtaburger is but a block away.
We reckon this bar will really hit its straps come summer. Jacobs is opening a leafy beer garden twice the size of the bar, which will make it one of the only places on Smith Street for a cider in the sun. And the cider list is strong, including bottles from Harcourt, the whole Old Mout range and the crisp dry Napoleone pear and apple number from France.
The ingredients are all there for this good local bar to be great. Just add time and a couple more experienced staff and it will hopefully all come together.