When it comes to Darlinghurst, there are plenty of cute, cool and quaint little bars ideal to while an hour or two away in, but on Oxford Street they generally ain't. This Must Be the Place, a brand new pop-up-soon-to-be-multilevel-bar by literally world-class bartenders Luke Ashton and Charlie Ainsbury, is a very welcoming change to a street that direly needs it.
The boys, both winners of the Diageo Reserve World Class competition created to discover the next generation of talent behind the bar (2013 and 2014 respectively), used their $100k winnings to give life to this place. Designed to be casual like a cafe, what you'll find currently is a pop-up spritz bar on ground level, decked out in eco-friendly accents like the reclaimed timber bar, plywood banquette and intimate small tables for intimate little drinks in an intimate, table service setting. The eventual idea, when complete, is to later open upstairs — a more serious bar for the more serious drinker.
However, even with its current incarnation potentially not being permanent, TMBTP is still very much worth a visit whenever you fancy (they open from 3pm, which is nice). And while the bar itself is a little too wide, creating a rather squashed gangway to the toilets and giving the whole venue a direct view of the white fridges and other usually hidden necessities of a well-oiled machine, this can easily be forgiven when you take a sip. You might think spritzes aren't exactly the most challenging of choices, especially for these two, but you'll quickly hold your fizzing tongue.
On our visit we decided on the Gloss, a fruity and fabulous concoction of strawberry, Ketel One Citroen, watermelon Riesling and rosewater, and the exceedingly well-balanced Belafonte of fino sherry, Tanqueray No. 10, lemon, wild basil and Prosecco (all spritzes $14). Effervescing on arrival and utterly refreshing, both were delicious, and it quickly became clear each ingredient had been well considered, delivering bursts of flavour that go superbly with balmy summer evenings. In fact, we had two Belafontes.
The menu itself will change through the seasons, but also isn't solely spritz-restricted. Beers, wines, cocktails (if you like the liquorice flavours of fennel and aniseed you'll love the Shifting Light of apple and fennel pollen, Tanqueray, lemon and honey for $16) and of course, all manner of classics. I know with Ashton and Ainsbury's credentials it was probably a little silly of me to test how well they made a negroni ($15), but naturally it was practically perfect. Food isn't forgotten either, by the way, with a selection of tinned nibbles like anchovies ($12), mussels ($12) and razor clams ($18) or small plates of prosciutto and Pyengana cheddar (both $15). We had the two latter and they worked wonders to calm our nibble-needing stomachs.
From the seriously friendly and efficient service, to the 6-foot tall and totally awesome custom-made Imperial Shaker machine replicated from a 19th century drawing that stands in the corner by the bar, there are plenty of other things about TMBTP that work wonders too. So if you're looking for something a little more sophisticated on a once vibrant and vivacious strip, well, This Must Be The Place.