They’ve taken the idea of 'humble pub as a blank canvas' very literally at the new look Dolphin on Crown Street. The old corner boozer has had an extreme makeover, and its fairy godparents are an impressive rollcall of Sydney hospo identities. Maurice Terzini has enlisted his crack team from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar for the aspirational project, including Lenny Opai on cocktail duty and chef Monty Koludrovic overseeing things in the kitchen. Plus they’ve got famed Sydney sommelier James Hird (ex-Wine Library) taking care of wine procurement.
Lucky too, because not only does the transformed Dolphin boast a buzzy public bar, dining room and open air terrace, it also has a wine room and salumeria. Generally we hate the phrase “something for everyone” but they’ve certainly given being a one-stop shop a red-hot go at this new venture.
Like so many venues in Sydney right now, these guys are set up for all moods and budgets. Get in and out for only $25 with a plate of the pigs head fritti and a glass of orange wine. They are like salty, crunchy edible Jenga blocks, packed with tender ribbons of pork, sweet corn kernels and herbs. At the opposite end of the flavour spectrum you’ve got a orange semillon from Shobbrook wines in South Australia that’s as fresh and clean as a just-mown paddock at dawn. It hits your tongue like it’s fizzy, but changes course to finish dry and smooth.
Want to linger? Good, because there’s a collection of bitter, refreshing Italian-style cocktails that require your attention, and the No. 8 tastes like the summer just gone with vodka, Campari and freshly squeezed pink grapefruit juice.
They’ve kept a few old faithfuls on the menu, so you can still get a burger and fries, a minute steak with mash and gravy on the side, but you’re missing out if you don’t order a pizza. We like that they’re bringing the toppings out towards the edges so that no dough goes unflavoured, the combination of melted cheese and hot salami topped with fresh prosciutto and torn buffalo mozzarella is our pick.
In summary, the eats and drinks are very good here, and we’re totally into the return of the pony (140ml glass) of beer, which means you can jump between Birra Moretti, James Boag’s, Kirin, Feral, Lord Nelson and Squires without overflowing.
The interiors are a whole other story. They’ve gone hard on the monochrome theme with white canvas seating printed with bold black linework, plus they’ve wrapped the bar and walls in white fabric as well. It's like someone asked Christo to build a shrine to Keith Haring. It’s stark and dramatic, and works well with the new scene here, which is a lot hotter, younger and more expensively dressed than before.
Everyone loves a Cinderella story, and an extreme makeover is even better, especially when it means what we’ve gained is a hot new after hours destination doing tiny beers, snazzy drinks and bringing some Bondi vibes to the inner city.