87 Albion St, Surry Hills NSW, Australia
(02) 9211 6632
Any drink that's been banned in France (and most of the world) must be good. Any drink credited with artistic creation (see Van Gogh, Toulouse-Lautrec and Oscar Wilde) must be great. That's absinthe for you.
So after a century or two of bad press, it's back. There's even a temple dedicated exclusively to this most theatrical of beverages in downtown Surry Hills. It's more like visiting a friend's place though: you ring a doorbell and someone lets you in. Bookings in advance (12 max) are well advised on busier end-of-week nights because of the Absinthe Salon's intimate size and for now, its curious appeal.
Tiny tables are scattered about the salon, each with a different absinthe fountain. A large art nouveau street lamp sprouts in the middle of the room. Back-lit potted palms fill corners. It's very well lit, maybe too well. I envisaged something more Moulin Rouge after midnight, but this feels more Burke's Backyard at midday.
Absinthe consumption is a ritual, and staff is more than ready to instruct and educate on the finer points. There are about 20 brands, hailing from Switzerland, France, Germany and Spain. Prices range between $12 and $20 per glass. But you're only allowed three. It's that potent. Seriously.
If this wasn't decadent enough, you can nibble on petit brioche or absinthe-centered chocolate truffles.