If cocktails and cheeky banter is your kind of thing, you’ve come to the right place. Bearded bartenders throwing you a can of VB? Yeah, Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern’s got that, too.
“If Earl’s Juke Joint and The Baxter Inn had a lovechild, that’d be us,” says Charlie Lehmann, one-third of the trio responsible for bringing you Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern. “We’re the ADD child.”
It’s a classic old boozer. A working man’s pub. A place where ‘shit tinnies’ go for $6 and the unofficial uniform is dungarees – t-shirt optional. For Charlie and his fellow rascals – Sebastian Soto (ex-The Baxter Inn) and Dardan Shervashidze (ex-Frankie’s Pizza) – it’s their first solo-venture. You can see their Swillhouse heritage, though; there’s freshly squeezed apple juice with your whiskey, free corn nuts on the tables and cheeky banter from the bar.
The boys of Ramblin’ Rascal Tavern have all the youthful exuberance that goes with running your own bar (even if they can’t fathom when their next day off is).
What to expect before you ramble in to Ramblin Rascals.
The vibe: It’s cheeky, underground and a little bit grungy. They know how to ensure a good time.
Ideal for: Friday night drinks that end up escalating.
Bartender's choice: Tombstone, $19. For bearded men and ladies.
By the way... Head to the ladies’ bathroom, where a wall of chalkboard and a tin of chalk awaits. Also, there’s free Wi-Fi.
And so they should. Last Friday was supposed to be a ‘soft launch’, but news of their opening went viral (oops) and half of Sydney tried to cram themselves in the underground drinking halls. You get a well-earned pat on the back when everyone wants a piece of you when the paint’s not yet dry.
If we had to settle on a theme here, it would be ‘ode to Australia’: vintage photographs of ‘20s and ‘30s Sydney line the walls and all the beer and wine is Australian-made. Where the pin ups of Marilyn Monroe and Bettie Page fit into that equation, we’re not sure, but hey – at least the ladies will help you find a beer. Marilyn guards the pale ales, while Bettie is all over the darker stouts. Blonde hair / dark hair – geddit? Good. Moving on.
Read more: "10 Things You Didn't Know About Frankie's Pizza" - including their porn shoot. Yes, really.
Despite the temptation to order a $6 ‘shit tinnie’ (anything from VB to Toohey’s New, whatever the boys decide that week), we’re here for the cocktails. The Snap, Crackle and Pop has a secret ingredient that, while we don’t want to give away, will definitely bring you straight back to your childhood. But it’s the Tombstone (Jim Beam Rye, sugar and bitters) that, once ordered, will get the boys’ attention. Finish it and you’ll have their respect; order another and you might as well be hired.
The place is entirely underground and kind of feels a bit like somebody set up shop in a basement everyone had forgotten about. It’s actually the old Laugh Garage site. “We told Anton [Forte, who owns the Swillhouse venues with Jason Scott] that we wanted to open our own bar,” says Charlie. “Two weeks later, he found us this place.”
It’s nice to see that the Swilhouse tradition of encouraging their bartenders to open their own places lives on (think Tio’s and Earl’s Juke Joint). The chicks have left the nest, so to speak. It’s the circle of (hospitality) life.
If the boys are nervous about their first venture, they’re not showing it. Working with hangovers seems to be de rigeur and while there’s not exactly a dance floor, an impromptu one forms most nights. Music-wise you’re looking at a few carefully curated playlists: what the boys want to hear, the sort of music you love to belt out after a few drinks and songs so shit you can’t help but love them. That last list is strictly for the end of the night, when everybody’s feeling a little more appreciative of Carly Rae Jepsen and the like.
You have to appreciate a place that has more seats than capacity (capped at 116). Down the track they’re looking at doing simple food and building up an excellent cognac collection, but right now they’re just focusing on pumping out the good times.
Up and at them, boys.
Address: 60 Park St, Sydney
Opening Hours: Monday to Saturday 4pm-12am, Sunday 4pm-10pm