The Roosevelt serve a cocktail in a glass gun. It’s called the Mr Sin – a mix of rock candy-infused whiskey and white port and it’s described on the menu as ‘the sweetness of a lap dancer’s kiss’. Draw your own conclusions as to whether that’s at the beginning of the night or the end. The drink’s named after Abe ‘Boss of the Cross’ Saffron, who actually ran and owned the Roosevelt nightclub back in the late '40s. Since then, it’s been a lot of things, including a decent French restaurant. Now the Roosevelt lives again under the keen eye of owner Sven Almenning and the gang from Eau de Vie (Time Out Sydney’s 2012 Bar of the Year).
This new bar harks back to the days in Kings Cross when dinner and drinks meant something more than a taco and a shot. There was a time when the 'Cross was properly sleazy. And it was the same time when nightclubs were places where you sat down for cocktails after dinner. Almenning and company are bringing back a touch of old-world class while employing some very modern techniques to their drinks making. If you thought nitro-drinks swirling all over the place were impressive, wait till you get one made right at your table. The art deco-style bar features a portable drinks trolley with liquid nitrogen on tap. Try the likes of a Nitro Colada (just like a Pina Colada, only frozen) or the Martini of Tomorrow, where a vodka Martini gets the nitro treatment. We still like 'em the old-fashioned way all the same, even if it isn’t quite as Back to the Future as bartender Phil Gandevia’s version.
The room is classic and stylish, featuring leather banquettes, little lamps on each individual table and Almenning’s beautiful collection of antique cocktail accessories and glassware captured in a wall-sized display case that doubles as a divider between the bar and the restaurant. The walls feature framed pictures of Kings Cross nightlife from dancing girls and ladies enjoying an afternoon sherry to dapper men and their damsels out on the town. The restaurant, by the by, was just about to kick off as we went to press - the concept is a mystery degustation with matched cocktails. Watch this space.
The Roosevelt features an all-star cast of bartending professionals. Chances are you’ll meet bar manager and resident Glaswegian Barry Chalmers (you might remember him from the early days at Eau de Vie) who is joined by Gandevia and Duke
’s Luke Ashton, along with Ben McFarlane (you may have spotted him within the pages of Time Out
as one of our Hot Talents to watch
). The only glitch – and by far the exception to the rule when it comes to service here – occurs when we order a drink off-menu, which results in more attitude than we bargain for from our cocktail waitress. But here’s the rub: cocktails start at $19 and can cost as much as $26 a piece. It certainly takes settling in for a proper session out of the equation for most people. That said, it’s great if you’re here for a nightcap or intend to splash some cash about.
That glass shaped like a pistol isn’t the only piece of kookery at the Roosevelt. There’s also the Dead End, served in your very own flask at the table. There’s something very pleasing about looking around the room and seeing folks furtively swig the mix of whisky, Averna and sweet vermouth like they’re about to get caught at a school dance.
Caveat lector: you’ll want to go armed with a decent amount of cash and an interesting date or two. The room’s big and as soon as there are fewer than 20 people in it, it feels a little like an empty hotel lobby. It’s table service, too, so no sitting at the bar the way you might at Eau de Vie. Of course, it’s also the perfect spot to take a book, order the Ricks Martini and make like a 1940s movie star. Here’s lookin’ at you, kid.