Once you locate Palmer & Co. down a narrow Sydney alleyway, you enter a sepia-toned world that transports you to another era. The prohibition-style bar will become your haven. But there are rules. And these rules are to be respected. The menu states that you must.
Merivale’s latest venture which took ten months from inception to completion quietly opened its doors just over a week ago. The concept behind the venue is to create a cocktail bar predominantly from the prohibition era of the 1920s and ’30s which offers a hideaway from the daily grind of the city above.
Palmer & Co.
Warm tones with exposed brick, period light fittings, tiled floor, original vaulted ceilings held up by thick wooden poles recreate the look of the era. Palmer & Co. has a Paris underground métro feel, with arches, bare walls and a charcuterie sign set in tiles. All that is missing is the feel of underground vibrations from passing trains.
All is right when you enter. No attention to detail has been spared, from the waitresses dressed as flappers in 1920s style to the team of international and local bartenders specifically selected from around the world – each bringing their ideas, techniques and cocktails.
Palmer & Co. takes its name from Mr Palmer of Palmer & Bros., a taxidermist who once occupied the premises. His photograph hangs on one of the brick walls. Learn the history and the caged fur and the stuffed birds looking at you start to make sense.
Enjoy table service from the intimate to the more convivial. Sit in different areas and you feel you’re somewhere else. A door connects to what will be Mr Wong, a Merivale restaurant due to open on 10th August, another to a private dining room with a medieval touch.
There are three bars from which to choose. The main bar occupies once corner where you can perch on bar stools and watch the bartenders ply their trade. Two “kitchen” bars lie on either side of the charcuterie. Every day, the designated bartender creates a drink specifically for that bar. These tend to be more fruit-based and accessible drinks and can include anything from punchbowl cocktails to flamed drinks.
The main bar features eight signature drinks from the Cocktail Collection and six Prohibition Cocktails, the latter being classics that celebrate the spirit of the period and come with a historical reference..
Complimentary peanuts are served as you study the 46 page menu, cleverly written and designed, and it is that level of attention to detail that continues to grip you. Cocktails are well priced between $15 and $18, all have premium spirits and liqueurs and make use of fresh fruit and some house-made ingredients.
To enhance the drinking experience, period style Nick and Nora glassware was sourced from the USA. In addition, each bar has its own freezer in which coupettes are kept chilled to ensure the cocktails are served as cold as possible.
Kyle preparing Palmer’s Martini
Order a Palmer’s Martini from the Cocktail Collection and you can watch the bartender mix your choice of Belvedere Vodka or Plymouth Gin with Dolin dry vermouth and a dash of orange bitters. Your drink is stirred in a large vessel and poured into very chilled glasses, and it is a perfect martini. Olives are served on the side, should you decide you like to nibble.
A & R
A & R has a base of Chateau Tariquet Armagnac, cranberry, lemon and rhubarb and berry jam and has the right balance of fruit and spirit making it easy to drink as you pick on a side serve of cranberries.
The Hollywood Sour has a large measure of Angostura bitters, Calvados, apple and lemon juices. Grated nutmeg on top gives it a spicy note that goes well with sweetness of the orgeat and vanilla syrup.
From the Prohibition Cocktails list, Vieux Carré is an absolute delight with Hennessey VS Cognac, Jim Beam rye whiskey, Dolin sweet vermouth, DOM Benedictine, Angostura and Peychaud’s bitters.
L-R: Fire and Brimstone, Blood and Sand
A classic favourite, Blood and Sand delivers on flavour with a blend of Monkey Shoulder Scotch, Dolin sweet vermouth, Cherry Heering and orange juice. This is another easy to drink cocktail even for a non-whisky drinker.
The Fire and Brimstone is the one with which to end the night. Made with Illegal Reposado Mezcal with earl grey infused Cointreau, lemon juice, agave, and homemade chilli bitters, it has a good measure of e followed by a light kick from the chilli. If you enjoy a smoky whisky, this is the cocktail to order and the favourite of the night.
If cocktails aren’t your preferred choice of libation, you’ll find a sizeable selection of whisky, gin, tequila, rum, absinthe, cognac, vodka, fortified wines and eau-de-vies. The wine and champagne list is extensive with a choice of Grandes Marques and grower champagnes many are available by the glass. Five beers take you to Belgium and back to Australia via the United States.
Should you find yourself in need of sustenance, food is available till very late. In keeping with the theme, the Charcuterie serves American-style food. You’ll find Mac’n’cheese ($8), Corned Beef on Rye ($15.50) and Chicken Matzo Ball Soup ($9.50) on the menu. Charcuterie platters start at $17 for 2 persons and include a selection of tasty cured meats, marinated Persian fetta and jalapeño peppers.
Palmer & Co. will tempt you back. The subterranean hideaway in Sydney’s CBD exudes elegance and nostalgia for a bygone era with dapper attired bartenders and waitresses in period dresses. The layout is inviting with cosy compartments and different corners in which to sit and experience a different ambience. Music adds another element of period authenticity to the venue with jazz and swing from live bands and DJ tunes. The service, be it at your table or at the bar remains warm, welcoming, professional and unpretentious. Order a cocktail and enjoy a well-balanced libation that will entice you to work your way through the list.
The only problem with this speakeasy bar is that once you’ve located it and imbibed its “bracing tonics and fortifying liquids”, it turns into a haven. And when you finally step out into the cold dark night and leave the prohibition world behind, you will be plotting your return along with your accomplices.
Palmer & Co. is currently open Monday to Saturday from 5pm till late and will soon be extending trading hours to include Sundays.
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