I'm always one for a party and who wouldn't enjoy an invite to a cool Sydney Bar's birthday bash. You can expect it to be a night of fun. The Smoking Panda located on the 1st floor above the Coronation Hotel on Park Street was firing all canons to make this celebration an expression of their established success throughout the past year. The evening soiree was also an opportunity to showcase their tried and true favourite Cocktails and Menu items along with some new additions.
The entrance is unassuming as you wander up a dimly lit staircase glowing with pink lighting and retro deco reminiscent of a 70's discotheque or even a more risqué venue where any seasoned skin would benefit from the forgiving pink glow.
As the weather outside was rain and more rain, my hair was also matching the mood with a Donna Summer kink to it. I was instantly relieved to see the dimly lit bar so I could blend into one of the dark moody corners and hide my rain spritzed Afro and drink a yummy cocktail.
We were greeted with a welcoming tray of Dunkin Doughnut Martinis. If you love doughnuts, then you will enjoy these this little tempter to kick start the night (dark rum, bourbon, vanilla bean, vanilla, butterscotch liqueurs topped with a mini Krispy Kreme).
Of course I couldn't help but wolf my doughnut down first off, it looked so cute! I had a mouthful of doughnut perfectly timed when the public relations lady appeared to introduce herself. With my rain spritzed Afro and now a mouthful of doughnut I was feeling a trifle conspicuous! She was so lovely in that she ignored my ungraceful state blaming her own timing. After I gobbled my doughnut down we had a quick chat. She informed us that the evening's event was solely for the media. The more rambunctious crowd was the week prior, where VIPs and regular loyal patrons had rubbed shoulders filling the space to the rafters. This explained the more subdued gathering of guests compared to other hospitality events I had previously attended.
We had a quick look around taking photos before the guests starting filling the venue. The casual interior balanced Chinese and Tiki elements with tasteful restraint. Dark wood themed throughout, soft dark grey vinyl arm chairs, cosy red leather booths to languish in. Chinese tasseled lanterns and dimmed rose red lighting shed a flattering glow throughout.
I really loved the 70's shaggadelic version of a fish tank in the shape of a ship porthole with small jellyfish floating around. The whole combination created a decidedly retro vintage ambiance, quite romantic.
The bar was impressive in dark teak under a awesome Grand Canyon ceiling mural and more pink neon glowed. The skillful barmen were hungry for a challenge, whipping up their best cocktails and were easily persuaded to concoct a custom order with your poison of choice. I almost had to shield my eyes from the sparkling array of every imaginable top shelf spirit.
After a few snaps of the camera, we grabbed a comfy lounge seat directly in front of the porthole fish tank and near what appeared to be a tarot card reading table. I thought this was a great idea. I've attended similar events where they had photo booths and once a rather novel idea was wildlife carers carrying live pythons and monkeys for guests to hold. The latter idea had a mixed reception as you could imagine!
Everyone would like a little guidance and direction in their life, so the tarot reading table intrigued me and added a nice mystical touch to the moody lit venue. The lovely lady seated explained it was a complimentary reading as part of the evening's entertainment for guests. Supplied by Mystic Party Entertainment, they will help host special events with skilled psychics, tarot readers or healers to give your event that special edge.
Mystic Party Entertainment - Tarot Reader (image - Seafarrwide)
I had my 10 minute reading and was astonished how spot on it was and really needed my cocktail after to contemplate her insight. Next was food - Head Chef Danny Russo was creating some tasty bites, the first being Bang Bang Salad. Some might consider this a summer dish. I found the texture from crunchy sprouts and carrots blended with rice noodles that were lightly coated in coriander and soy dressing. It was the ideal refreshing starter.
A collective trance ensued as the guests started to track the delicious food trays and another round of cocktails were on offer, this time it was the Panda Negroni. This cocktail wouldn't be everyone's favourite unless you are a lover of Campari. The Panda Negroni is made a trifecta of ingredients - aged Tequila and house made spiced Campari syrup, splashed with sweet vermouth over orange candied chipped ice. The Campari bitterness was carefully balanced. I found it a great palate cleanser after my recent dumpling.
Next we were served Lamb Ribs with coconut cream, lime and chilli. Tender and tasty, a little on the sweet creamy side, maybe slightly rich on some stomachs after cocktails. I down a gulp of champagne to clear the coconut cream ready for the next dish. Steamed Ling fish with a subtle XO sauce. Now my taste buds were singing, seafood has always been my favourite.
My next favourite was Numbing Prawns. I was a little scared at with a title like that but was pleasantly surprised at the subtle flavours. Presented in cute bamboo boats with a flower shaped prawn cracker on top, it's a winner.
I was feeling my waist increasing but the next round looked too inviting to resist. Chicken Katsu (crumbed chicken, soft milk bun, lettuce and mayo). The chicken was juicy and the crumb coating nicely crunchy, filling the soft sweet milk bun.
By this point I couldn't stomach more food but the sight of the next cocktail was just what I needed. The Blushing Panda, this sweet delicious cocktail my perfect dessert. A Mixologist had some fun creating this lovely concoction. The ingredients of pink rose essence, citric infusions, frothy vanilla berry gelato with a frozen rose strawberry were the bomb. This would be the perfect Valentine's Day Cocktail or just as a dessert anytime.
The trays of food continued but I was full to the brim. Drifts of appreciation were buzzing around the room and The Smoking Panda 1st Birthday Party was in full swing. A few sore heads would be pounding the pavement tomorrow for sure!
This quirky cool bar is open Wednesday to Saturday 4pm until the wee hours of the morning. I considered it the perfect late night stop if you have the need to kick on with a sexy ambiance. The bar houses over 65 Bourbons, 50 Rums and a full range of Whiskies and Tequilas, an impressive Wine list, plenty of craft and local beers, some punching ccktails and as you can see some delicious Asian inspired bites. Make it your mission to seek out this hip bar soon.