What used to be the tacky, overly pretentious and forever expensive Piano Room has been transformed into a fun, light-hearted eatery and bar. Santa Barbara is yet another love child of the Drink ‘n’ Dine collective, who have stripped, ripped and re-equipped the nightspot, making it a far cry from many other Kings Cross establishments. The balcony lends itself to smokers, while a series of new walls have created nice nooks and crannies throughout the bar, without making it feel like a rabbit warren.
Santa Barbara tastefully fuses a Californian/Chinese/Mexican/Hawaiian vibe (did you get all that!), and the menu is as eclectic as the restaurant theme. We kicked things off with the Mahalo Popcorn (Popcorn soaked in pineapple, bacon, sesame, coconut, furikake and parmesan) and an assortment of Peking Duck and Kung Pow Chicken Bings (Santa Barbara’s take on the taco if you like – think more texture and less chilli).
On the heavier side of things we indulged in the Santa Barbara Swordfish, the unusual yet undeniably tasty Coke Can Chicken with Sweet Potato Fries and Mexican Combination Street Salad. The swordfish was the highlight, cooked to perfection and coupled wonderfully with the Jalapeno Salsa Verde.
On the drinks side of things Santa Barbara offers a range of excellent venue specific cocktails. I opted for a Gin based cocktail, the Room Service ($15). A refreshing blend of Hendricks, St Germain, Cucumber and Berries served over crushed ice. Others on our table indulged in the Vodka/Kiwi infused Pleasant Ending ($15), and the Passion Gap ($10), a spiced rum, honey and lemonade mix – not a bad word was said about either drink. Part of me however felt that this food was best served with an icy cold beer, of which the venue offers a great range of international and national selections.
Santa Barbara is open lunch, dinner and later than dinner, a lot later! Settle in for a feed and a few (read: many) drinks on a friday night, or cruise down as we did on a weekday for a casual, no fuss meal while taking in the always entertaining views of William St. Once again Drink ‘n’ Dine has shown us that perhaps a tiger can change it stripes, offering a great new Kings Cross venue that has removed itself from the cliché – oh, and you won’t need tacky loafers and 14 women accompanying you to get past the bouncer.
Address: 1 Bayswater Road Kings Cross (Under the Coke Sign)
Open Mon-Thu noon-2am, Fri noon-3am, Sat-Sun 4pm-3am