"Whiskey, rye, snatch?"
When you enter this new Surry Hills bar, they're pretty much the first words you expect to hear, right out of the mouth of Deadwood's tough-talkin' publican Al Swearengen.
Okay, so they're not so big with the random stabbings and teenage whores here, but squint and you could be standing at The Gem. A longhorn steer head takes up almost an entire wall, while taxidermied deer and foxes gambol like graceful woodland creatures around the shelves and AC ducts. Three carved wooden American Indians stand sentry around the room along with sepia photographs of moustachioed publicans staring down from up high. Round tables are bundled together around the room - ready for games of poker, unlit cigar chewin', deals made with spit and a handshake and, of course, some good old fashioned drinkin'.
You'll want to start with a set-up - that's a whiskey with a beer back. It's here that Shady Pines reveals its true colours. You can have a can of the sessionable Coopers Malt fresh from the ice bucket behind the bar with some bottom-shelf basics on one hand, but you can also trade up with a Rosita, a crisp, artisan-made Spanish blond beer, and on the other, something along the lines of a measure of Eagle Rare, just one of the fine bourbons and ryes on pour. If you take the latter option, be prepared to pay for it - some of the whiskeys are priced north of $15 a shot - but the value is sound.
Owners Anton Forte and Jason Scott are both ace Sydney bartenders in their own right and know their booze. You might've seen Forte behind the bar at Lotus while Scott was last seen at the likes of Victoria Room and Libertine. There are plans aplenty afoot, too: live country and western music four nights a week and a mechanical bull for private parties. Forte and Scott are also looking at importing Williamsburg hipster doofus tinny of choice, Pabst Blue Ribbon.
While Brooklyn and New York's Lower East Side may have their fair share of pioneer-style dive bars filled with beardy selvedge-denim-clad urban lumberjacks, it's a first for Sydney. Much of the fit-out, in fact, has been salvaged from the now defunct Sydney steakhouse, Arizona's. The tables and chairs, once square and bleached, were made round and stained dark and the massive, heavy bar, not quite long enough to fill the room, is three quarters Arizona's, the remaining fraction made from an old basketball court.
So what makes Shady Pines the place you should be drinking right now? A number of things, from the excellent booze (get 'em to make you an Old Pal while you're there - equal parts whiskey, sweet vermouth and Campari) to the friendly vibe and expert bartenders. We smell a winner.
Also see Tio's and The Baxter Inn