Like Tutankhamun's tomb, Carriageworks' food and drinks site seems to have had an ancient curse menacing it. Venues have come and gone (most recently John and Peter Canteen), perhaps banking on a more formal, sit-down crowd than they can reliably attract in a pre-show context. Can Cornerstone lift the curse? There's no doubt it has a good chance, masterminded as it has been by the Fresh Catering team and boasting a truly gorgeous fit-out.
The look of the space is industrial refinement: the bold sign welcomes you to a lofty ceiling with worn brick walls and distressed surfaces, softened by luxe Chesterfield couches to flop down into, cocktail in hand. Snaps go to interior designers Humphrey and Edwards for the colossal monster ferns hanging from cranes, the Edison bulbs burning seductively like lanterns along a lakeside dock, and the option of outdoor seating. Mugs of spiced popcorn and a light, transportative Chambord and sparkling wine cocktail made the bar's launch a truly enjoyable night in such attractive surrounds.
It's been our suspicion that the price point could make or break this venue, and that share plates and mains under $22 would be the best way to go. Headed by savvy managing director Peter McCloskey, Fresh recently catered Opera on the Harbour and Sydney Fashion Week. Cornerstone's modern Australian menu is affordable and, from what we tasted at the launch, the food's delish. We went back for third helpings of a mini wagyu beef slider with chilli tomato jam, and were thrilled by the sleekness of the oysters and the tasty spiced duck and asparagus sambal taco with wasabi mayonnaise.
These items won't necessarily appear on the menu proper, but wagyu beef and gruyere sliders ($12) currently do and we bet they're amazing. Share plates kick off at 5pm and range from marinated olives and spiced nuts ($9) through prosciutto and figs ($18) to the ploughman's platter ($36), with many appealing dishes in-between. Young Henry's beers appear alongside wine and cocktails, as well as Little Marionette coffee.
We reckon meeting a group here will be a classy yet relaxed way to pre-game before taking in a performance.