First there was Shirt Bar. Then came Champagne and sneaker bar Butter. Now, to complete the outfit, Surry Hills has welcomed Soultrap, Sydney's first hat bar.
Taking over the old Play Bar space on Campbell Street, new underground venue Soultrap combines mistelle and millinery, or more specifically, fortified wines and feathered fedoras. The hybrid venue was established by small bar specialist Christophe Lehoux who co-founded House of Pocket group, which includes much-loved drinking dens Pocket Bar, Stitch Bar and Button Bar.
Lehoux is passionate about small bars and hat making, and rather than choose between his two loves, he thought, "to hell with that, I'm doing both". When he isn't taking orders or pouring drinks behind the bar, you can find him at the back of Soultrap working away in his dedicated hat workshop. His handiwork is displayed throughout the venue and all hats are available for purchase.
Headgear aside, the venue functions primarily as an underground small bar and live music venue. The bar is run by Josh Craker (ex-QT Sydney) and the house specialty is mistille, a traditional French drink made from fermented grape juice and eau de vie (fruit brandy). Each region in France has its own variation and Soultrap offers a fair few, either as mistille melanges (mixed mistilles) or mistille-spiked cocktails.
For an introduction into the mysterious world of mistille, we recommend the Pinocchio ($17), a simple aperitif combining Pineau des Charente and bitter Campari. The taste is sweet, light and floral, similar to Pimm's or sherry.
Alongside mistelle, Soultrap serves a selection of seasonal cocktails, craft beers and organic and biodynamic wines. The cocktails are the real deal, too — strong, subtle and not too sweet. Top tipples include the Australian Fare ($22) a Manhattan made from Australian amaro and a native botanical vermouth, and the Spouses' Sour ($18) a cherry marzipan concoction, made from Aperol, gin, almond syrup and orange blossom.
Soultrap's food menu is just as sophisticated as its drinks, with a selection of small French and Italian morsels, which can be combined to create a charcuterie or cheese plate. Options include the jamón serrano ($7), Brillat-Savarin ($8) squid in its ink ($8), peppered fig paste ($4) and baked camembert ($13). For something more substantial, there's also the pissaldiere ($14) a flaky French pastry topped with caramelised onions, anchovies and olives, and a smoked ocean trout dip with crisp endives dippers ($13).
The tradition of live music continues with Soultrap hosting a jazz, soul and funk night every Thursday and vinyl-only DJ sessions on Saturday. And for bringing great drinks and live music back to Surry Hills — we take our hats off to them.