Double Bay's Pelicano has had a mini makeover. Regular revellers, rest assured; this east Sydney hotspot hasn't fluffed too of its many feathers. But a menu update, some excellent art and a most affable manager in Alex Cameron have given the old bird a lift.
There's much to admire in Double Bay's burgeoning food scene: the streets serve up both established grand dames (ahem, Pink Salt and the Sheaf) and sparkly young things. At Pelicano, potted mandarin trees line the street-side seating, and on a balmy night under Bay Street's canopied trees, it's rather pleasant.
Here, the menu is modern Pacific, with Asian and Mexican influences. The cocktail list — extensive and, yes, exxy — encourages lingering over shared dishes. Pacific oysters are practically begging to be skolled alongside a glass of bubbles, delicious with roe and rice vinegar (6/$22, 12/$40). A highlight is the lamb ribs, with zesty breadcrumbs to cut through the rich meat ($18). The accompanying herbed chimichurri works, in a Mum's-lamb-with-mint-sauce meets minty-pho way (that is, a good way). A beef tenderloin is particularly pleasant, and the spinach and veal jus accompanying it good too ($29).
But like a pelican sitting on the water, the real party is going on below deck. Head downstairs and you'll feel as though you've stumbled into a swish home bar. Expansive, with plush seating and a wraparound bar, you realise Pelicano comes into its own as a swanky lounge. And I mean swank, i.e. that copper-clad bar. You don't have to be a Grand Designs obsessive to know that that copper is the glitzy gold of building materials.
But before you get comfortable with that gorgeous avocado and smoky mezcal concoction ($19), draw your gaze to the walls. The place is packed with art from the owner's personal collection: Lichtensteins and Basquiats, are you kidding me? You could almost be at a wildly rich grown-up's house party.
From 10pm at the weekends, a DJ turns this low-lit basement into a proper nightspot. Crowds of bubbly peeps-about-town descend for the drinks and giggles. Pelicano is closed Sundays, for recivilising oneself before Yoga Village and shopping, I mean work, on Monday.