It wasn’t hard to guess that the team behind Lobo Plantation would give Sydney one of it’s very best openings of 2016 – and that’s saying a lot, it’s been a huge year for food and drink around town – but what is surprising is the loose theme surrounding this new venture, Kittyhawk. The bar takes its name from a U.S P-40D fighter jet that dates all the way back to the French Liberation, so here one would find subtle nodes to Paris circa 1944, from WWII memorabilia and vintage maps to framed wartime posters and a large portrait of jets swooping over the countryside – all barely visible save for the flicker of candles and glow of hanging lights.
All that lighting is enough to create a magnetic yellow glow that looks incredible with the sightly green frontage that greets you off Phillip Lane, ushering you into a narrow corridor before you push open that final door to reach a lively time capsule split into two areas. In a similar fashion to Lobo, the elevated dining area is a cushy distinction from the jovial 12-metre-long American oak bar, featuring some highly coveted seating including gorgeous semi-circular chesterfield booths. Those just stopping by a few late-night drinks are best served pulling a stool up to the bar, but once you tuck into the food and the cocktails it’s clear Kittyhawk is best experienced as part of a larger group – celebrating liberty calls for a party after all!
A rum and rye (they hope to grow their 120 deep rye list to around 300-400) focus brings depth to the drinks list and allows for some truly inventive signature cocktails that seem designed to satisfy all types of preferences. Creations like the tropical white-rum based Berries 3 Ways ($19) which comes garnished with a bright blue edible Lego man, or the sweet-sour Beets by Dre ($19), a cocktail that’s distinguished by its purple glow, are delicious, colourful entry points for those leaning towards something a bit lighter. Moving up the scale of strength, those who really appreciate balance will gravitate towards cocktails like the exceptional Rye Gram ($19) which is made with spiced rye, coconut stout, fresh lemon, and gomme, garnished with a lemon twist and – excitedly – a flamed cinnamon quill which delightfully lights up the room once the bar staff put light to liquid. 19 different signatures means much exploration to be had, but for those not in a cocktail mood there’s also an extensive selection of wines and beers.
The kitchen is led by Chef Jason Wright, who has created a modest but really unique list of French inspired bar snacks. He has formal training as a pastry chef so unsurprisingly the attention to detail and texture here is top notch. Almost everything here is well worth a pick, beginning with the Ratatouille Sticks ($13), a serving of buttery filo pastry cigars filled with creamy roast shallot béchamel, slow roasted eggplant, baba ghanoush, and gruyère with capsicum jam as a dip, and the excellent Old Timer Potato Chips ($9.50) with parmesan, crispy sage, and white truffle oil.
Diving further into the food menu, there’s the great Classic Steak Tartare served with tostadas ($16). The house-made spiced ketchup save the tostadas – the weaker side of the dish – but that beautiful, rich grass-fed organic sirloin topped with crispy capers and shallots is unquestionable, and one of the best picks on the menu. Surprisingly, it’s rivaled by the sleeper hit of the kitchen: the Parisian Salad ($16). It’s a mix of handpicked salad leaves with duck breast pastrami that’s been house-smoked and cured. A fresh apple dressing adds well to the flavour while some toasted pine nuts take care of the texture. The dish is finished off with a perfect crispy confit duck Scotch egg.
Groups of two – or hungry solo visitors – should go straight for the Coq Au Vin Pie ($16) which is filled with piping hot chicken that has been braised for 24 hours in red wine before being broken down and coated in its own rich cooking juices and piled into an oven baked short crust pastry base along with a creamy tarragon mousseline potato. The pie is accompanied with charred button mushrooms, baby onions, fried breaded beetroot and burnt onion mayo.
Those wanting to wrap the night with something sweet shouldn’t go past the serving of Assiette de Eclair ($10), a small tray of four mini house-made eclairs dressed in chocolate and crushed pistachio, hiding a small filling of smooth vanilla custard.
Whatever you’re feeling liberated from, Kittyhawk has definitely emerged as one of the city’s most essential celebrations, mirroring the charm of Lobo Plantation and building something that feels like it’s going to be an important part of Sydney for a long time to come.
Address: 16 Philip Lane, Sydney (Corner of Bent Street)
Hours: Mon-Thurs 3pm-midnight; Fri-Sat 3pm-2am