Review: Pasta and cocktails steal the show at Bar Machiavelli – Rushcutters Bay (Sydney)

Sydney’s legendary Machiavelli Ristorante has been standing proud for over 27 years now, a mature, powerful presence for classic Italian, and a shining example of an endearing dining institution. Some may have noticed that the business has been slowly expanding in these past few years, some recent openings being the streamlined Mach2 in Sydney Airport, and massive sister restaurant Bar Machiavelli.

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Bar Machiavelli is such a substantial move for the business, and for chef-owner Paola Toppi, that of course one of the city’s most underappreciated venues needed to play host. That venue is the enormous heritage site in Rushcutters Bay on Neild Avenue, tucked away from the nearby action of Potts Point and Kings Cross and teeming with history. The warehouse-style space is famous for hosting high-profile restaurants throughout the years, some of the most notable being Rushcutters, Neild Avenue, and Porteño. What used to be a tyre factory once upon a time is now a dynamic space imbued with theatrical wonder by designer Jason Mowan, upbeat with a space framed by large projected screens hosting moving images nodding to Hollywood and classic Italian cinema, all sitting underneath those dramatic high ceilings. What the new team have done with the space is nothing short of extraordinary, certainly pushing Bar Machiavelli as one of 2016’s most attractive new additions.

The unique venue could have easily overwhelmed, but instead Mowan has embraced the sense of scale, unafraid to accentuate its grandiosity. Tables are spread neatly throughout the spacious venue, and smart lighting helps corners glow with life, mirroring the energetic golden glow of the bar which sits in the middle of it all. It’s here diners will likely spot instantly recognisable local figures, mostly big names in the media and sports industries. It seems Machiavelli Ristorante’s reputation for attracting the rich and famous has spilled over to this impressive sister restaurant, right along with the price tag.

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It’s not all celebrity spotting and large-scale art projections as you sit down and really take in this energetic atmosphere. The menu reads like a Italian enthusiasts dream, bringing the focus back to classic antipasti and pasta, but before you tuck into the food it’s worth pulling out the sizable drinks list.

True to the “bar” in the title, this restaurant boasts a shockingly long list of signature cocktails, with the average price around $18. Fans of muscular mixes should order up a Guns N Roses ($18), which is Chivas 12yo with Montenegro liqueur, rose essence, Angostura bitters and smoke; it most certainly hits the spot without overwhelming the palate. For a sweeter start, a wise choice would be the Fig Delight ($18), made with fresh figs, ginger wine sherry, orange blossom, lemon, lime and caster sugar.

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This surprising cocktail list is surely the finest from ex-Rockpool bar wiz Matteo Bekleziz to date.

If your visit is within the next few months then take advantage of their currently running collaboration with luxury French perfume house Givenchy, who have exclusively partnered with the restaurant to promote some of their newer releases. Geared for the guys is a Gentlemen Only ($19) cocktail which is made with bourbon whisky which has been stirred with Amaros and poured over a rock of crystal ice. It’s a smooth drink that gets the brunt of it’s flavour from a mix of orange, saffron, anise nutmeg and cinnamon essence spray that comes through beautifully on the back palate.

Givenchy cocktails. Photo supplied and credited to Dominic Loneragan.
Givenchy cocktails. Photo supplied and credited to Dominic Loneragan.

There are only two cocktails on the Givenchy menu, the other being the female-focused Goddess ($19), designed to reflect the brand’s Dahlia le Nectar de Pafrum. It uses Vodka infused with sandalwood, liqueur de violettes, citrus, camomile and jasmine syrup, and champage foam.

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Before you get to their excellent pasta options, it’s worth taking a dip into the kitchen’s antipasti. A beautiful Beef Carpaccio ($26) lightly wet with white balsamic dressing and served with thinly shaved pamesan and baby rocket reflects the focus on fresh here. It’s second only to the lovingly arranged spread of San Daniele Proscuitto and Burrata ($29), a very share-friendly dish with rucola and added sweetness from fresh figs; pricey yes, but invaluable to the table.

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Vegetarians have a good option with Beetroot Carpaccio ($24), which is served with creamy goat’s cheese and baby herbs, and seafood lovers will take right to the tender Calamari Fritti ($26), lightly dusted and fried with housemade tartare sauce.

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You can go for various other mains, but pasta is very much the star of the illustrious show at Bar Mach, the best being Chestnut Pappardelle ($38) with porcini mushroom and Madeira sauce. There’s no time for anything but a no-fuss, rustic presentation here as the waiter deftly places the steaming plate on the table and offers to serve. Large silky ribbons of chewy pasta sit slithering in that stunning nutty and intensely earthy sauce.

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Pappardelle Paola’s Slow Cooked Duck Ragout ($38) is another fine option, weightier with the busy ragout but no less delicious as the generous, fluffy pieces of duck sit in the shadows of the huge pieces of pasta.

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By this point you should probably have a nice glass of red sitting in front of you; that or even more selections from the long cocktail list. The Prince vs The Count ($18) is a solid choice, with aged beefeater gin, grappa, cinzano rosso and campari, but the slightly similar Negroni Svegliato ($22) is superior, with red vermouth brewed nespresso, beefeater gin, and campari served over a big rock of ice.

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Moving to dessert, grab a divisively creamy Tiramisu Martini or the harder-than-expected Cinema ($18), which is wild turkey, cola reduction, pop corn syrup and cherry bitters. You’ll need something to balance the richness of the decadent Chocolate Fondant ($15) which is made to order and served with a big scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Bar Machiavelli

Address: 10 Neild Avenue, Rushcutters Bay, Sydney
Contact: (02) 9357 7750
Website: http://www.barmachiavelli.com/
Hours: Mon-Fri 6pm-11pm (bar until 12am); Sat 5pm-11pm (bar until 12am)