It's rare that I find myself passionate about a bar, but the Fox Hole deserves to have its praises sung. Perched on the corner of Kent and Erskine Streets in the CBD, here's what I believe epitomises an unpretentious drinking hole. The front room is cosy with patrons bunked down at hazily candle-lit tables sipping their wine as they watch the world go by through large windows. Wooden stairs lure me into the basement, where the only windows are high along the roof, and my eyes catch glimpses of heels as people stroll past on the street above.
Many small bars try for that speakeasy feel yet so few actually manage to accomplish it. To my delight, the Fox Hole's basement has been gutted and stripped back to expose brick walls and the ceiling rafters, making for a room offering an intensely underground cool. Bare bulbs hang from the roof and the room is occupied by a seamless blend of antique furniture. The bar shelves are stocked with wine, liquor and crystal glasses while vintage blues wafts through the air to create a sultry den-like ambiance.
Expect table service delivered by friendly staff, because that’s what’s on offer. And let it be known that these guys are experts in their field, too, so don't shy away from asking for a recommendation. Deciding against my companions' choice of Little Creatures Pale Ale ($7) I went for the 2009 St Johns Road Cabernet Sauvignon, Barossa Valley ($10 glass) suggested by my waiter.
The food? Dumplings ($6 for four), with Korean-style spicy chicken and vegetable soup ($8) and a share plate of cheeses, cold cut meats and other antipasto treats ($15) rounding off the menu. We select the mixed dumpling plate ($10.50 for seven) and the share plate. The straightforward fare is exceptional in execution, presented simply with a rich dollop of originality. My tipple of choice to accompany the food was the 2010 Dowie Doole Merlot from Mclaren Vale SA ($11 glass), which is light at first, then rounded off full-bodied.
Also worth noting is the fact that the Fox Hole supports local artists by offering the space as a gallery free-of-charge, with no commission on sales. The artist in residence changes monthly and a launch is held on the last Tuesday of every month. The Fox Hole is a cosy-hidey hole from the hustle and bustle of Sydney's city that roars above.