275 Clarence Street
2000 Sydney, Australia
Any basement bar describing itself as a "retro-sexual haven of cosmopolitan kitsch and faded granny glamor" gets my vote for originality. And Grandma's also gets my vote for the most eccentric entrance; down a small CBD stairway where a wall mounted stag's head points the way. Inside, a rocking chair, complete with side table and basket of knitting wool - greets you.
Hard to nail the decor; peeling white-wash brick walls and cockatoo wallpaper all dimly lit, scattered ottomans and 70s sofa chairs lend it a retro/industrial air, but there's a rustic charm that's very welcoming and very comfortable. There are even paper doilies, just like the lace versions grandma had scattered under every glass, vase, photo frame or ashtray.
The last time I had a jaffle (a particularly Australian concoction where a sandwich is toasted between two hinged heated metal plates, originally over an open fire) was at my own grandmother's; but guess that, they're served here on old-fashioned floral plates, and even filled with spaghetti; I kid you not!
But you don't go to this Grandma's for food. There is a very tropical cocktail list with a distinct bias towards rum, tequila and daiquiri classics, like the Papa Doble (a nod to Hemingway) or the home-brewed Atomic punch. Ms Sydney, after her handcrafted raspberry Moscow mule, picked up a random skein of wool and tried her hand. Maybe it was the mule, but she missed a couple of cross stitches to the left in working a cable purl through the back loop, and gave up. After that she had another delicious negroni.
There's an all-too-rare easy going vibe, no doubt helped by the exceeding friendly service staff (grandchildren?). And not a whiff of pretension found anywhere. As for Sydney's homogenised bar scene, Grandma's, like camphor, is a breath of fresh air.