Bars Restaurants

Emmilou Tapas Bar: Cocktails, Happy Hour and Cinq à Sept in Surry Hills

The French call it cinq à sept, the hours between 5pm and 7pm once reserved for passionate liaisons. In the past, Frenchmen made such visits to their mistresses before dashing home to their wives. Cinq à sept also refers to l’heure de l’apéro, the civilised ritual of partaking in an aperitif and nibbles otherwise known as Happy Hour.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
Drink Until He’s Cute… but what if he’s already cute?

At Emmilou Tapas Bar in Surry Hills, you can indulge in cinq à sept without any guilt. Sit on the Victorian terrace facing Bourke Street, order a Happy Hour cocktail and watch the parade of colourful Darlinghurst locals. Or, if you’re like me and your interests lie behind the scenes, sit facing the dining room and observe the action around the bar.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
The interior

The vibrant interior draws the eye past the bordello chic red walls and Louis Ghost chairs towards the golden bronze bar. The colours are rich and deep, warm and sensual, hinting at passions that no doubt translate into food and drink. An eclectic mix of funky tunes streams through the speakers; the sultry voice of Sade feels right at home in these surrounds.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
The red wall and Louis Ghost chairs

On one wall, a dicton from a Confrérie de Vin is scrawled, Jamais en vain, toujours en vin (never in vain, always in wine). On another, a flat screen television plays snippets of an old movie. Beneath it, a line from a hauntingly seductive French song by Jeane Manson catches my attention. And it takes me back.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
Faisons l’amour avant de nous dire adieu /Let’s make love before we say goodbye (YouTube) and a proposal to Reece

In short, Emmilou exudes European attitude.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
The bar

Chef and owner Chris Cranswick-Smith is the man behind this modern European style tapas bar and cocktail lounge. With an impressive bio that includes working in Michelin star restaurants in Spain and France, including Café de Paris in Biarritz, La Broche in Madrid and The Square in London’s Mayfair, his experiences clearly translate into the food and drink culture at Emmilou.

We met Chris last year at the Salt Book launch at Mumu Grill and popped into Emmilou when it celebrated its third birthday last October. This time, we have an opportunity for a relaxed chat with someone who is as passionate about his work as he is well-travelled. I suspect he is multi-lingual, though I did not get the chance to slip into French and ask.

Part of Emmilou’s charm is the energy surrounding Chris and the welcoming way in which he interacts with his guests. With food, travel and European influences, Chris is the kind of person with whom conversations flow until you remind yourself that you’re not at some dinner party but at a restaurant. And he is the chef.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry HillsEmmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
The bar – Happy Hour Cocktail: Pear Fizz (left) and Tequila Negra (right)

Back on the terrace, it’s cocktail time with friends visiting out of town and Sweden. I lose track of how many of the Happy Hour Pear Fizz and Tequila Negra are consumed. Don’t be misled by the pink colour of the latter. Made with Tequila and berries, the men at our table declare it a favourite.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry HillsEmmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills
Booze Hound Cocktails: The Love Child cocktail (left) and 10 Counts Martini (right)

The cocktail list is intriguing, inventive and ranges from ‘crowd pleasing’, to ‘adventurous’ and a one that caters for the ‘booze hounds’. The Love Child is a whiskey lover’s delight, delivering a  16 year old single malt Scotch (Lagavulin) with Pedro Ximinez sherry and whiskey barrel-aged bitters. I order the 10 Counts Martini, made with Tanqueray no. 10 gin, a hint of antica formula sweet vermouth, Campari and a grapefruit twist, to which I immediately declare my lust. Must like the inscription below.

Emmilou Tapas Bar Surry Hills

We are yet to dine at Emmilou, but unlike the song above, there will be la prochaine fois… next time.

Emmilou Lounge and Tapas Bar
413 Bourke St
Surry Hills NSW 2010


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About the author

Corinne Mossati

Corinne Mossati is the Founder/Editor of popular online magazine Gourmantic and Cocktails & Bars, a website dedicated to cocktail culture and the discerning drinker. She is named in Australian Bartender Magazine’s Top 100 Most Influential List since 2013, is a member of The Academy responsible for judging the World’s 50 Best Bars. She has also judged the inaugural Australasian Whisky Awards and various national cocktail competitions.