Not too many bars or restaurants display the confidence prerequisite to establish themselves atop a steep flight of stairs. This is doubtlessly a wise avoidance for many places visited in my life-time, as they’re simply not good enough to warrant the gravity confronting transit. Vinyl Room in Manuka sits perched high over bustling Franklin Street and is a completely different kettle of fish. I would hike the steep rocky slopes of Kosciuszko just for Tapas and cocktails here, so a preordained Cheshire inspired grin was resolutely plastered across my face on arrival, even after rambling on up the defeated flight of lushly carpeted stairs.
Surfacing into the space, an initial realisation of the bustling fast-paced Zeitgeist outside becomes prevalent, as Vinyl Room has an unexpected and refreshing atmosphere of laid back chillaxation, inducing the surrendered desire to drop everything, sit down and just enjoy this small piece of elevated heaven. There is no internal-organ-reverberating base to contend conversation with, nor is there need to stand at a bar for hours scrabbling over the last remaining cocktail menu with thirty seven perfect strangers you wish would just hurry up and make a darn decision.
The decor is contemporary with quirky fun light installations and intriguing light shades above the comfy chairs and tables I could only describe as having an aesthetic of honeycomb noir.
The menus are fabulous with content and conveniently include both the food and drinks lists in one slender, coil bound volume. The food component consists of a refined tapas menu, the concept of which is very in vogue right now and hopefully stays around for some time yet. Food preferences, intolerances and allergies are all covered with vegetarian, gluten free and strictly carnivorous all on offer. After much ‘umming’ and ‘arring ‘over balsamic and fetta confit of grilled mushroom with sourdough, spring rolls with homemade chilli sauce, lamb cigars with yoghurt and, Cajun chicken pizza featuring a honey mustard sauce, we finally settled on seared beef, salmon, chorizo and the chefs special of prosciutto wrapped chicken rolls.
Drinks were ordered from the mind-blowingly extensive (over 40 cocktails!) list whilst waiting for the tapas to arrive. A reincarnation of the old 80’s favourite, Mr Harvey Wallbanger, seemed contextually appropriate. Grey Goose Vodka, fresh orange, orange juice and vanilla Galliano are amalgamated in a tall glass with a mountain of crushed ice. The cherry on top was, well, the cherry on top – a garishly glacéd pop red garnish on an already vibrant creation was a lot of fun, and very easy to mindlessly sip down.
The tapas rolled out at a great pace, with the seared beef arriving first. A salty Tuscan inspired grissini which was moreishly crisp, golden and savoury provided the perfect accompanying juxtaposition to the super soft, svelte concertina of tender seared rare roast beef. The Chef’s special Asian marinade had a sharp tang of acidity and a beautiful herbed element which really balanced the flavour and textures well.
A quick cocktail intermission featuring the “Old Fashioned” between dishes was deemed necessary, and induced that swoon of lip smacking, head spinning jubilation only obtainable via a healthy slosh of Maker’s Mark Bourbon. Smoky, strong and alluring – it was best sipped sparingly!
Plates of Chorizo, prosciutto wrapped chicken and the salmon salad arrived looking irresistible. The fiery split curls of chilli channelling chorizo were dense, juicy and conveyed that characteristic smoky sweet paprika taste to a tee. The homemade chilli jam with coriander is swoon worthy, achieving an unexpected level of chilli Zen through the achievement of both cooling temperature and heat enhancing fire. The prosciutto wrapped chicken rolls filled with asparagus, basil and sundried tomato were lovely and tender. A burst of basil embodies the initial sensation, followed closely by a stalky asparagus crunch and the mellow sweetness of vividly hued sundried tomato. Finally, the cured salmon was laid out in creamy rouge tinted strips with shaved fennel, orange, rocket and capers with a heavenly dill-embraced cream. The fennel gave a great textural indifference and salty, sour sharpness of capers added further dimensions to the depth of flavour.
I finished the meal on a Ginger Giggle. Comforting, earthy and amber, I can claim this one as a health tonic because I definitely felt better after consumption. The twist of lemon is a simple and beautiful garnish, working double time as an enhancement to that grounded gingery spiciness. A great one for those who like to drink their gingerbread men…
Technically the review ended there – but I enjoy the atmosphere of Vinyl Room so much I stayed hours and many cocktails longer. I highly recommend the French Martini (think Chambord, vanilla, pineapple and a sweet soft foam), the White Russian (if you like coffee cake you’ll love this), the X.O.X.O (best coffee cocktail around), the Purple Rain (it’s purple… and the taste is too good to describe – you must try for yourself), Autumn Fall (if you appreciate fine scotch with Lindt chocolate) and the Wild Lyre (if you find rose petals floating in your martini glass irresistible).
I think I’m a barely respectable baker’s dozen of the way through the cocktail list of over forty, and only about a quarter of the way through the tempting tapas offerings. Vinyl Room, I accept your challenge…