New restaurant and bar The Powder Keg in Potts Point is a gin lover's dream. In fact Sydney's largest gin collection is right here under their roof. The origins of gin are in fact in Holland, becoming popular in the UK in the 18th century. This is the inspiration for the small bar, reflected in the food, drinks and decor.
Mixologist Grant Collins has created a remarkable cocktail menu, with the Gunpowder Plot ($18) as one of the signature cocktails. It's a delicious concoction of Gunpowder tea, gin, Fernet branca, Gunpowder syrup, dandelion & burdoch bitters, and fresh citrus. But the kicker is that it's served in a smoking cloche that's uncovered right before your eyes. The drama of the smoke as it escapes from the cloche is priceless, and the smokiness of the cocktail itself is a great touch.
Head chef Elijah Holland has created a knock-out menu that draws on 18th century British and Dutch fare that's intended to be shared. First up are oysters with a gin & tonic sorbet, cubed cucumber and foraged flowers ($9). Elijah tells us he foraged the tiny flowers this morning. I love that the sorbet is citrusy and fresh, which is a clever take on having oysters with lemon. The small cucumber cubes are also cleverly reminiscent of a G&T garnished with cucumber.
The presentation of all the dishes is top notch. This is especially true for the quail scotch egg with smoked potato foam, crispy pancetta, pickled shimiji mushrooms ($16) topped with volcanic salt. The quail egg has a runny yolk, and the balance of textures and flavours is right on. I think it's the first time I've ever eaten pickled mushrooms - the acidity and texture is interesting (in a good way).
We're then treated to a palate cleanser before the mains, which is actually not even listed on the menu. In the centre of the jelly-looking orbs there's sloe gin, which is a liqueur made with sloe berries. Shavings of lemon rind are scattered on top. The spheres pop in your mouth - it's such a delightful palate cleanser.
The crispy skin snapper is served with a seared scallop, savoy cabbage, heirloom carrots and brown butter ($29). That cabbage in brown butter - I could eat buckets of it because it's so good. I'd order this dish again in a heartbeat.
The smoked and roasted half chicken is served on a bed of lentils, artichokes and mint ($27). It's oddly reminiscent of the savoury smokiness of ham to me. I also very much enjoy the lentils. They're such an undervalued legume.
On the side, we also have the triple cooked chips with three dipping sauces ($7). The three little pots of housemade sauces are superb; there's a moreish gravy, a spicy horseradish mayo and a housemade ketchup that's wonderfully smokey.
As for vegetables, the charred brussels sprouts with pancetta and Dutch carrots ($16) are made with duck fat. I like that there are also bits of fresh Brussels sprouts, not just charred ones. The dish complements the chicken beautifully.
For our next round of cocktails the Volcano Punch ($17) is the standout for me. Served in a tiki glass, the cocktail is a blend of dark run, apricot liqueur, bitters, fresh passionfruit, and OP rum float. It contains dry ice, causing it to bubble over dramatically at the table. This was definitely my favourite cocktail, and it's especially perfect for a hot summer day.
There's even a signature G&T on tap at The Powder Keg. The one we have is made with huge ice cubes, which actually makes it a bit difficult to drink - once the ice has melted a bit, it's easier. For your G&T you can take your pick from almost 100 types of gin, three choices of ice and and five kinds of tonic water (including one that's housemade). You can even pick the garnish.
Even though we're completely stuffed, we've left room for dessert. The Negroni ice cream soldiers ($15) are served on a wooden board covered in chocolate soil. The soldiers themselves are discs layered with a marshmallow on top, negroni ice cream in the middle, atop an orange biscuit. The different textures work a treat together, and the negroni ice cream is very well made without the harsh bitterness that negroni cocktails can sometimes have. I personally prefer it without the chocolate soil, but otherwise this is a winning dessert.
As for the TPK Chocolate Jaffa dessert, it's utterly delicious. I'm not normally a jaffa fan because I find chocolate and orange strange together, but I really like this one. The thin slices of orange are chewy, the chocolate mousse is incredibly decadent, and the orange jelly cubes are covered in granulated orange sugar.
The decor at The Powder Keg is cosy and charming. Dimly lit and furnished with leather club chairs, the venue is long and slender. At the back the bar is slightly hidden - head back there for your nightcap.