Jason Scott and Anton Forte, booze poets of the Sydney bar scene, have hit the nail on the head once more with Frankie’s – the down-and-dirty basement bar that’s a little bit RSL and a little bit rock’n’roll. And it’s in the heart of the Sydney CBD.
Think of Frankie’s as the sleazy Monaro-owning cousin to Shady Pines and Baxter Inn. Out the front, it’s a full-scale cheesy Italian restaurant complete with candles stuck in old Chianti bottles dripping with wax and red-and-white checked tablecloths. It’s like a scene from Lady and the Tramp, only with more pictures of topless ladies next to the DIY chilli oil. And, touchingly, there are a whole lot of Forte family photos stapled to the walls.
The only spirits available out the front are Italian aperitivi and digestivi – so you can get a Fernet, Campari, Aperol or grappa with your $5 slice of capricciosa. Or you can order a whole pizza for just $16. That pizza, by the way, is seriously good – thin bases, minimal toppings, quality ingredients. Gianni Cristiano used to toss dough at the likes of Pizza e Birra and Vacanza.
Then head out the back: the big room is plastered in old gig posters of the Who, the Ramones and the Fuck Offs. In the corner there are five pinball machines (only one of them was working when we visited), for only 20 cents a play.
Frankie’s is on the old Hunter Bar site. Somehow Forte and Scott have transformed one of Sydney’s least missed white-collar pubs into a disco-sleazy dive complete with a sickeningly slow-rotating mirror ball. Lou Reed might be crooning from above (the sound here, as with Shady Pines and the Baxter Inn, is reliably ace) and those table-side booths are deep and cushy. But nappers beware: they’re deliberately designed to be rigidly upright – passing out is not an option unless you’re a very stubborn drunk.
The back bar is a rogue selection of weird booze, good whisky and an ’80s club-style lit-number system that indicates when your pizza is ready. It’s all set against the original bottle-green fish-scale tiles. Vintage glass Pabst Blue Ribbon globes and Miller Light neon may light the way, but the majority of the beers on offer are small-batch craft brews like the Grifter Brewing Company’s honey-sweet-and-buttery ‘Drop Dead Fred’. Keep away from small children.
They also offer Boag’s as their quaffing beer, but if you want to get serious, try Nowra locals HopDog and their eye-wateringly bitter ‘Children of Darkness’ – it’s soiled black jeans in a glass. Temper it with the only cocktail on offer: a slushified and limy-as-hell Margarita. That’s a two-fingered salute to scurvy, right there, though we like to add a measure of Boag’s to ours to tame the sourness. DIY Lageritas for all!
This is the first of the Scott-Forte bars to have a 4am license. On one hand that means big hospitality crowds but on the other it means they have to use plastic cups and glasses. They’ve sourced really good ones, mind, from a company in Boston. But that doesn’t change the fact you’re drinking out of plastic, which just kind of sucks – especially in summer.
Considering this is our only axe to grind with what is otherwise a dangerously fun boozer, we’ll neck up.