For what feels like several hundred years, The Rocks has been heavily dominated by tourists and vagabonds, a veritable melting pot of people, cultures and opal shops, targeted squarely at an ever hungry tourist market, in the area to see a bridge, an opera house and to catch a ferry to Manly or across to the Zoo.
This is all changing with a slew of venues opening to return the vibrant inner city hub into a mecca for food and wine. One of those is Frank Mac's - a temple to gin and cocktails, with more than 100 juniper based tipples to take any gin lovers fancy. The menu states that: "Frank mac’s is for the scallywags, sparra farts, urchins, beggars, scarlet ladies, drunkards, hangeron to the bordellos, thrice-bankrupt, speculators, discharged bartenders, disgraced politicians, playout horse jockeys, fraudulent auctioneers and antique traders much older than the goods they ply, scoundrels, gamblers and card sharks, loafers, rascals, divil skins, rowdies and characters of every shade and grade of villainy. Not to mention minor royalty, sly grog queens, jailbirds, intellectuals, disk jockeys, popular musicians." We felt right at home.
The Frank Mac's team are behind the Doss House so we entered with very high expectations. Our visits here had always been great. The team of cocktail slingers and mixologists will whip up pretty much whatever you like but I'd lean toward gin if I were you. We decided to go all out and sample some of their specialties - something I love to do in a bar.
For us: A Mary Magdeline – a mix of JJ Whitley gin, vodka, tomato consommé, white worster (sic) sauce and citric acid; The Old Doss combines Woodford bourbon, Antica formula, walnut bitters, whiskey barrel bitters and simple syrup; The Shillings has JJ Whitley gin, apple, lychees, salted caramel, citric & malic acids with traces of dairy written as milk.
Each were as good as the last, but the most ridiculous and absurdly indulgent (okay we had consumed a few by then), was the Nolet distillery silver gin, vintage 1970's Carpano dry vermouth served in crystal and paired with a 10g serve of Osteriia caviar. I mean, why not?
To the food. We kept it simple with a cheese board (it was okay but the cheese were very cold), saved by the stunning spiced currants, a meat board with some dips and pickles and three meats, and some Ortiz sardines with pickled shallots, gin and a balsamic dressing. Let's face it, we need to eat. Food and service both lacked a bit of what the drinks menu offered so it was a bit of a meh experience. I wanted wow and didn't get it. Call me old fashioned but regardless of where you eat and drink, value for money has to be considered. The drinks, worth every penny, were outstanding.
The Rocks needs venues like Frank Mac's and those that are opening nearby to revive this once tourist dominated haven, but each needs to be up to the mark with the prices asked and the spend per head. I don't mind dropping good coin on an experience, but the whole experience has to represent a bit of value. I imagine as they settle, things will improve and they'll find their groove, but there were just a couple of misses that made the visit less than expected.
Frank Mac's is at 83 George Street, The Rocks
Open Weds-Fri 3pm - late
Sat 1pm - late, Sun 12noon - 10pm
*Cover image by Stephen Woodburn/TimeOut