Rooftop bars are all about the big reveal. You go into a plain foyer, like so many other uninspiring entranceways to the city’s workspaces; you press the ‘R’ button in the lift, bypassing the private business college and a community college. You’ve got something way more fun in store than learning. Then the doors open and you step out into a timber-lined bar cranking the Dixieland jazz and ’60s pop. It’s basically the 18+ version of entering Willie Wonka’s factory after a long journey through industrial London.
Instead of candy trees and a chocolate river, here it’s about cocktails, lobster and burgers. It’s a really specific Venn diagram, but people are loving it – there’s not a free table to be had at 7pm on a Tuesday night, and we’re told the lunchtimes get equally crowded. You should book ahead.
Save your visit for a clear night when they can retract half the roof and all the heat and chatter can disappear out into the night sky. Summer is made for drinking Kentucky Coolers (bourbon, peach tea, Amaro Montenegro and lemon juice) in the evening breeze, perhaps with a round of lobster lettuce cups bulked out with lentils, carrot and finely diced onion. They’re kind of like a fancy French take on a sang choy bow.
Need something substantial? The Uncle Sam burger is a rich, salty and slightly sweet hunger buster that comes with a side of dark golden chips doused in truffle oil for fans of the synthetic savoury.
We’re pretty suspect on the Dom Hemingway that takes your classic Hemingway Daiquiri (rum, grapefruit juice, lime, maraschino liqueur) and reworks it with two kinds of gin, Benedictine and Worcestershire sauce. Strangely, the savoury element from the seasoning brings all the sweet and sour into balance.
For an inner-city bar on top of a fairly bland building, the Rook manages to create a hard-worn warehouse vibe that wouldn’t be out of place at Hibernian House. Decoration is kept low key and practical – there’s a giant dove mural on one wall that feels very Bladerunner and the rest of the ornaments are mostly booze-related. Empty bottles line the walls of the dining area, a wire cage dresser doubles as liquor storage, and the compact bar doesn’t have much room for knick-knacks once you squash all the necessary spirits in there.
We’re of the opinion that any high-rise in Sydney that could have a cracking cocktail bar on its roof and doesn’t is a tragic waste of lofty boozing opportunities. There’s just something so much better about drinking at altitude and dinner on high.