Howard’s Cantina and Cocktail Bar – the bud that has blossomed above Erskineville’s the Rose of Australia
Set back a few streets from the bustling strip of Kings Street Newtown is where you’ll find the quiet, humble streets of Erskineville. Step through the unassuming entry way of The Rose of Australia and stride past the warm, open space of this rabbit warren. Traipse up the stairs and step through the threshold into Howard’s Cantina and Cocktail Bar. Inspired by owner Scott Leach’s late father, Howard’s Cantina is filled with vibrancy and flora with a side of rustic and edgy appeal. A nod to the man himself, Howard, and all that he loved.
Start with cocktails. For a Mexican style refreshment order the Paloma ($18), a refreshingly classic combination of tequila, lime, agave and grapefruit. If you’re after something slightly heavier, Howard’s Cantina have some hard hitting classic cocktails with a twist. Ever smoked a Negroni? The bartenders will show you how with The Smoking Negroni ($18). Classic aromatics are elevated with the smoking of Grand Marnier and hickory chips. Meanwhile, the thought of shiraz blended with whiskey eggs and lemon would normally make us shudder but Howard’s Cantina’s New York Sour ($18) is a must try.
Howard’s Cantina is equal parts wholesome and urban. A modern twist of edgy neon signage and bright, urban artwork lifts the original 1932 features of the fireplace, windows and brickwork. The same goes for it’s food. Executive Chef Chris Bell is as down to earth as his edible creations celebrating great produce and flavours.
The house made cheese, bread and chutney ($9) brings a rustic edge to this foodie experience. Forget the cutlery and tear apart the chunky sourdough, and top with lavish servings of cheese and chutney. Cured in-house, the salty bresaola ($14) is sweetly softened with smoked tomato petal. Orange wedges and whipped mustard add a mouth-watering hit. A subtle experience of enjoyment is found in the black garlic cured cobia ($16). Served with beetroot two ways, celery juice poached potato and a side of sea bananas, this is a true celebration of flavour.
Howard’s Cantina take a new turn on the family favourite roast dinner. The whole whey braised lamb shoulder ($60) rests in a pool of whey – a by-product harnessed from the house made cheese. The final product? A crunchy topped, melting meat masterpiece. Pair your meat with sides of smoked pumpkin topped with mint and seeds ($12) and cauliflower with crisp anchovies, peanut and pickled turnip ($12).
Leave room for dessert, The Watermelon Challenge is an unusual combination of flavours worth trying. Soaked in chilli, salt and lime, watermelon is a symphonic combination with the crunch of bitter sweet honeycomb. Bringing you back to reality, tamarind and coconut gelato softens the dish.
You’ll think you’re at the movies with their Maltesers and popcorn dessert. Salty popcorn crumble is sprinkled upon chocolate malt ganache, corn glass and corn curd. All emotions are evoked as you journey through the salty crunch, malt glory and the sweet snap. When you think you’ve hit the climax, Chris Bell enters the floor, ready with a frozen coke granita. The perfect palate cleanse to end the night.
As you exit Howard’s Cantina, look down to your right. Here you’ll spy a sign, suspended above the ground level. Read the words ‘Happily Ever After starts here’. We’re sure this is just the beginning of the Howard’s Cantina fairy tale.
Howard’s Cantina and Cocktail Bar
The Rose of Australia,
1 Swanson St, Erskineville NSW
(02) 9565 1441
Although the official Howard’s Cantina and Cocktail Bar webpage is yet to launch, head to The Rose of Australia website for more information.