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restaurant review: helm bar

Near Pyrmont Bridge in Darling Harbour on Cockle Bay sits Helm Bar, the yellow light of Madame Tussauds and the aquatic glow of the aquarium reflects onto its glass exterior. At night, this area of Darling Harbour is a reprieve. The tourist attractions are closed and the buzz gives way to some stillness. Helm bar also close to the Sydney office district. Yet, still a resting spot, it’s far enough away for comfort. That’s the irony of inner-city eateries – you’d think that a place somewhere in the middle of it all would be ill-equipped to provide appropriate ‘rest’ implied in the term ‘restaurant’. But it can.

Helm Bar is up a short flight of stairs and boasts a modern pub menu including steak, pasta, pizza, seafood, and salads (and nightly specials such as ‘$10 steak Tuesday’). This is my genre of place – no confusing cutlery, moderately priced, wholesome, classic-with-a-modern-twist foods. We sat right next to the window, overlooking the harbour. A boat called ‘Matilda III’ was pulling in and the ocean was lulling calmly.

Not that Helm Bar is itself calm, or at least, not necessarily. We were there on a Wednesday, so it was probably much quieter than normal (I imagine this place ‘going off’, as it were, on a Friday night). The bar area was full of business-people with beers in hand, the florescent glow of gaming screens and televised sporting events (probably rugby, since it is Sydney after all). There is a divide between the bar and the sitting area. People sat down, ate, and had a chat. The music was such that it wasn’t a struggle for me to hear my boyfriend talk about his day or marvel at the boat parking prowess of the driver of the Matilda III, but I couldn’t hear the conversations of others.

Helm Bar has a kind of third part, the funkiest of them all – up against the wall opposite the window were high bar tables with high bar stools, but also high bar couches.

The cocktails hit the spot. Mine was the Oriental Sweet Tart which was mostly gin that had met brief acquaintance with some limes. The glass rim was sugar-coated and tasty, I licked my lips after each sip. We also tasted the Mojito, which was good, standard, and not over-iced as is so often the case at cocktail bars.

The pizzas were tasty. We had the Mexican ($18.50) and Spicy Chorizo Sausage ($18.00) pizzas. The Mexican featured chicken, capsicum, jalapeños, avocado salsa, and buffalo mozzarella. The Spicy Chorizo Sausage had chorizo, beef mince, roasted capsicum, caramelized onion, goat’s cheese, and olive tapenade.  The serving size was sufficient though not generous (two pizzas between two people left no extra slices for Thursday breakfast).

The Mexican went well with the Mojito and had quite a spicy kick emanating from the jalapeños. The Spicy Chorizo was my favourite because it was packed with goat’s cheese. Often you get pizzas with fetta or goat’s cheese sparingly sprinkled, this pizza was delightfully smattered with it. The pizza bases were good also, they were lightly salted, the crusts resembling the taste of breadsticks.

‘How do you describe taste in a review?’ I asked my boyfriend.

‘I usually just say “yes” or “no”,’ he responded.

Helm Bar gets a ‘yes’ from me. A central place with a good view; nourishing, affordable food; and an atmosphere you can wind-down to.


Image courtesy of wasamedia.

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