At The Wild Rover in Surry Hills dressing up is encouraged, Irish music provides the spritely soundtrack and the cocktails are avant-garde.
Brought to you by the team behind Grandma's Bar, heading to The Wild Rover is like taking a trip to Ireland via New York City. Hidden behind two large green doors, upon entering The Wild Rover you will be struck by the welcoming atmosphere, eclectic interior, and extensive whiskey and cocktail list.
We caught up with Kim McDiarmid to chat life and live music at 'The Rover' and check out the team's High Rotation playlist.
TUL: What do you do at the Wild Rover? Who makes up the team behind the bar?
Kim McDiarmid: My position at 'The Rover' is General Manager and I lead a team of incredibly friendly, passionate and sincere people. Whether it's Mitch, Mikey, Kirstin, Adam or Douglas you will always be welcomed when you walk through that big green door.
TUL: Why have you guys gone with an Irish folk bar/ NY vibe?
Kim: A combination of looking at what Sydney had to offer at that time and focusing on a level of service in a welcoming environment was paramount. There is no better culture that embraces the idea of having fun than the Irish, it's all about the craic. Incorporating New York's 'new world' style of vibrancy and flamboyance sets us apart from having simply a pub feel.
TUL: How did you find the prime location?
Kim: We wanted a space off the beaten track on the fringes of the city. One hidden in plain site with plenty of old-world character and charm.
TUL: The interior is eclectic: from exposed brick and animal wallpaper, to old train timetable boards and red leather booths. How did this come about?
Kim: It comes right from the core of what The Rover is all about. A place to unwind, kick your feet up and have a good time with friends and family. We wanted to enhance the space whilst adding a few touches of glamour. Such as the copper bar top and leather banquettes, then throw in a little childish humour and colour... hence the wallpaper.
TUL: What whiskey would you recommend to a novice?
Kim: We have an abundance of Irish whiskey and typically it is approachable and commonly regarded as a 'gateway' into drams from the rest of the world due to its delicate flavour profile. Once acquainted, you will feel more comfortable with moving on to more robust styles, such as Scotch. Redbreast 12 Year Old Irish single pot still should do the trick.
TUL: What about a well-seasoned whiskey connoisseur?
Kim: We are lucky enough to have a bottle of Balvenie 14 Year Old Roasted Malt gracing the bars at The Rover. Its a pleasure to drink, so complex and lends itself well to a Guinness chaser.
TUL: You have some pretty crazy cocktails on the list (like the Kilpatrick Bloody Mary or Root Of The Earth), who concocted these and why so unusual?
Kim: We no longer have the Kilpatrick Mary on the list but we have replaced it with a 'Fresh Pressed Mary' that consists of freshly juiced tomato, carrot and celery with lemon and a dash of seasoned olive oil. A great Sunday afternoon treat before moving on to a classic Bloody Mary. 'The Root of the Earth' has evolved into a tequila-based concoction and is shaken with fresh beetroot juice, lime and grapefruit bitters. For the whiskey lovers wanting to dabble in a cocktail, the staff favourite 'Irish Penicillin', is made up of Irish whiskey, lemon, honey, ginger with a splash of peated scotch whisky. The cocktails are a team effort and most of us have contributed.
TUL: Are you planning anything big for Halloween?
Kim: When you have staff with pseudo nicknames such as 'Cherry Leopard', 'Maddog' and 'Trigger' every week consists of quirky behaviour and at times dressing up. Having said that, fancy dress is not only welcomed at The Rover, it is encouraged.
TUL: Can you tell us about the live music at the Wild Rover?
Kim: With the afternoon sun shining through the windows upstairs, it sets a brilliant stage for Sunday drinking with a relaxed vibe to begin with, before moving on to some foot-stomping fun in the early evening. Matt Gollan from The British Blues and The Morrisons are often featured along with other local Sydney blues, folk and bluegrass bands. We open at 2pm and no time is wasted in getting the session underway.
TUL: Apart from the Irish fiddle music what do you guys listen to on high rotation?
Kim: This is a mix of the upbeat and the slow tracks we play throughout the day and night.