The Swinging Cat is a Hidden New Orleans Gem
Things aren’t always what they seem. Take the corner of King Street and Clarence Street in the city. Looks like a Subway right? Well yes, there is, but look closer because we’re not here to talk about foot long subs. Lower. See those little barred windows lit with the glow of mystery and allure at pavement level. Congratulations, you’ve just discovered a piece of New Orleans right here in Sydney.
It may not be big, but The Swinging Cat knows its niche and has nailed it. This small bar exudes the energy of the deep South. And since New Orleans is known for its cocktail culture, guess what… there’s plenty of drinks being shaken, stirred and served straight.
Before you get distracted by their menu of Bienville (poached pear and cinnamon daiquiri), Chatres (coconut and kaffir lime highball) and Decatur (smoked date Manhattan), walk immediately to the bar and start your night with a Sazerac. If you’ve never had it before then go traditional, but if you’re already convert (which we are after just one from The Swinging Cat) then dabble in their ‘Ode to the Sazerac’ versions. Ok let’s backtrack for a second. Actually, let’s go all the way back to the 1800s when the Sazerac began cementing its title as the official cocktail of New Orleans. Named after the Sazerac French brandy it uses, this cocktail has had its ingredients tweaked over time, but the preparation method (which is a key feature of this famous drink) remains relatively untouched. First the glass (a chilled old-fashioned one. Make sure you get that part right) is swirled with absinthe. Next, another glass is used to combine cognac, bitters (Peychauds bitters that is), and a dash of sugar, stirred with ice. Strain into the first glass, don’t you dare add ice, and sit back and feel its smooth kick wash down your throat.
The food menu is short but meets the brief – bar food bites that ensure your stomach is well lined for a night of cocktail indulgence. Staying true to New Orleans’ reputation for eclectic food, think a mix of Cajun, French, Italian, African and Chinese, don’t be surprised by the Shrimp and Crab Dumplings (get them – they’re incredible) alongside the wagyu beef grilled cheese, which is Richard Duff’s (ex The Lincoln) twist on the famous American grilled cheese sandwich. We’re told there’s quite the grilled cheese making rivalry among the foodie circles in New Orleans, with chefs competing to come up with the best filling to complement the iconic gooey cheese and bread dish that we like to call a toastie.
The space itself sets the perfect scene. The Swinging Cat’s owner, Pete Fischer (ex The OXO Tower at Harvey Nichols, Zeta Bar, Hemmesphere and Level 6) searched for eight years to find this idyllic character-packed location and we must say it was worth the wait. The interior has been spruced to feel like the French Quarter, one of the oldest neighbourhood of New Orleans. The gas lit street lamps and quirky artworks are all authentic. All that’s missing is a live jazz band… although we hear that may not be beyond the realm of possibility in the near future.