Call me biased, but the small bar scene in Sydney these days is great. One of those lovely little ironies in life, however, is that small bars are small; no entry, no fun. Brand new drinking hole Peekaboo, off Darlinghurst’s beaten track (aka the Woolloomooloo end of Bourke Street), has already attracted a local following. And while it’s not as pristine or sophisticated as some of its neighbours, you should probably get in quick.
The place, an old heritage terrace house, is indeed small, but space has been well utilised, allowing for a bustling atmosphere on busier nights. Shaped in an L, the bar’s divided into a couple of standalones, plush red table-service across the right exposed sandstone brick wall and stools at the bar, which also homes the chef in full white garb and full view. Round the corner you’re greeted by a giant mural of hand-painted stars and characters like Miss Monroe, James Dean, Audrey Hepburn and the Mad Hatter, before the choice of an almost hidden smaller room ideal for romantic drinks or liquid lunch meetings appears to your left.
One might argue the whole iconic-movie-stars-thing has been done to death, but combined with an utterly quirky soundtrack hand-selected by owner Erykah Saba and the genuinely historic setting, it works. Plus the tall ceiling of exposed heritage beams, discovered completely by accident when Edge Design Studio came in to work their magic, is stunning. It’s not everyday you’re gifted a chunk of Darlinghurst past.
Sustenance wise, you’re here for cocktails and wine (although there is a selection of handpicked craft beers if you’d just prefer a cold one), and the menu is nicely balanced. As cocktails go, there’s an 11-strong selection as well as all manner of spirits behind the bar to make up originals or personal faves. If you like bitter, you’d do well with a Nucky’s Manhattan ($18) of bourbon, chocolate liqueur and bitters stirred down and served with a frozen Chocolate cherry to boot. For a less sweet hit, grab the Take Me Home ($18) and relish in Jack Daniel's, Campari, Amaretto peach bitters and a splash of sugar syrup served on the rocks. Spice can be found in either the Piscaboo or the Tommy’s Chilli Margarita (both $18); however, watch out for the Gin Ginger Spice: this one sadly lacked the gingery punch in the face you’d expect from chilli, ginger foam and black pepper alongside gin, lemon and sugar ($19).
Vino lovers will like the menu and the 2012 Western Australian Castelli Estate Cabernet Sauvignon ($10/glass, $56/bottle) is a very nice medium- to full-bodied choice. 2011 was an almost perfect growing season for Castelli Estate, scoring 96 points from old James Halliday himself, and it seems 2012 ain’t too bad either, especially paired with a cheeseboard ($20). And while the cheese changes depending on season and selection, personally this was one of the best cheeseboards I’ve had for a long time: far from stingy and moreish as all hell. The rest of the menu isn’t mind-blowing, but certainly a good and tasty feed, especially the five-spiced braised pork belly with cauliflower puree ($16) and the refreshing chermoula prawn, pomegranate and couscous salad ($14).
At Peekaboo, though, drinking is definitely the main attraction, and with plans for live music once a month already underway, this place is pretty much primed and ready to quench thirsts from all over town. Let's just hope you can find a seat.