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The Woods of Windsor

This revamped bar is bringing old-fashioned speakeasy service south of the river.
By Veronica Fil
November 20, 2013
By Veronica Fil
November 20, 2013

It's dim, and the flickering glow of candlelight bounces across the bar, making the shelves of whisky bottles glisten like a 'come hither' smile. Beneath them, a dapper barman works quietly, skilfully, multi-tasking between potion-mixing and lending a sympathetic ear as you offload the troubles of your day.

Another stiff drink appears; the 60s rock 'n' roll tunes kick on, and it's hard to believe that just meters away, on the other side of the door, the hustle and noise of Chapel Street continues to whiz by.

You'd be forgiven for losing your sense of time in The Woodsof Windsor. Between the tucked-away taxidermied treasures, op shop knick knacks and speakeasy-slick, the venue somehow manages to transcend the space-time continuum and transport patrons to the pre-prohibition States.

Perhaps open with a drink from the martini menu — there are eleven variations of the classic on offer, made with either gin or vodka and an optional fancy olive (try an anchovy or blue cheese-stuffed salt-bomb of bliss for $2 extra). For those up for a cheeky cocktail, we highly recommend the Pranksters Punch, made with Sailor Jerry spiced rum, pisco, Grand Marnier, lime, orgeat and a candied lime wheel ($19).

If the whisky offering doesn't put hair on your chest, team it with a cigar; the in-house humidor stores a rotating selection. Ladies, don't be left out — manager Heather Ward-Walton says a surprising number of women imbibe in a puff: "I'd say the [gender] mix is about 60/40 in terms of ordering cigars," she says. Amongst the brooding and romantic surrounds, what better way to impress that bloke you've had your eye on than with drink on the rocks and traditional rolled tobacco?

Some might remember the venue as its previous incarnation, which was renowned for its creative, gastronomic extravagance. Things have undergone a spring clean since then and, while some may be disappointed that the restaurant has gone, it's been replaced by a casual, simple offering of share plates. "We've gone for a more relaxed vibe, moved away from fine dining," says Ward-Walton. "Food is meant to be shared and it's been designed to match our cocktail menu."

Standout dishes include the duck liver pate with potato crisps ($14), gremolata prawns ($8), and the sardines with curried tomato and fennel ($8).

In any case, The Woods provides the perfect south-side surrounds to pull up a barstool, indulge in your vices and while away the hours with friends — or on your own as you pen your memoirs.

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