HAPPY hour is getting a European twist, with fabulous food being served alongside cut-price drinks.
Taking a leaf out of the Italian tradition of aperitivo, the ritual of a pre-dinner drinks and nibbles, restaurants are swapping the salted peanuts for pate de campagne, patatas bravas and arancini.
For many eateries, the menu of morsels brings in another revenue stream at an otherwise quiet time.
For diners willing to eat early, it’s a chance to try a restaurant they might not normally be able to afford.
At LP’s Quality Meats, the $10 happy hour menu is more than just snacks; order all five substantially sized plates, throw in a few drinks and an early dinner for two is only $80.
The Dolphin, Surry Hills, kicked off the trend locally.
Its aperitivo hour is a collaboration with some of the country’s best chefs, including Momofuku Seiobo’s Paul Carmichael, Automata’s Clayton Wells and Analiese Gregory from Franklin (Hobart, Tasmania).
“Aperitivo encapsulates the combination of classic Australiana happy hour with classic Italiano culture,” says chef Monty Koludrovic.
“Ultimately, I think Australia is already good at aperitivo in the form of happy hours, great value snacks and drinks — we’ve just taken it to a place of real quality.
“It is the aperitivo that nonno would recognise but not necessarily prepare for himself.”
5/23, Barangaroo Avenue, Barangaroo
A gold coin donation weekdays, 4pm-6pm, gets you a selection of mezze to go with any drink purchase. Think mini pides, olives and dips such as atom, hummus and tarama, with the money going to OzHarvest.
412 Crown St, Surry Hills
Aperitivo hour is 5pm-7pm, but keep an eye on the dates as they change depending on who is dishing up the $5-$7 snacks.
12-16 Chippen St, Chippendale
The $10 Happy Hour menu between Tuesday-Friday, 5pm-6pm includes Basque anchovies, corn dogs stuffed with taleggio and n’duja on toast.
15 Bligh St, Sydney
When Hubert opened, people queued for a table, now they line up to get a spot at its aperitif, from 4pm-6pm daily. When it includes $10 negronis, $5 gin and tonics, parfait and pate de campagne for $5, you can see why.
118 Harrington St, The Rocks
Escape to this hidden city terrace weekdays 3pm-6pm for $10 drinks including negronis and espresso Italianos teamed with $10 pizette, plus polpette, $9, and arancini, $6.
17 Bligh St, Sydney
The siesta menu, from 3pm-5pm, is the way to graze away the afternoon on oysters, pate, salads, jamon and cheese.
10/49 Lime St, Sydney
Here it’s called After Work Appetisers and, on weekdays between 5.30pm-7pm, you can get three dishes, such as tempura masala prawns, baby corn pakora and lamb biryani arancini for $35 with any drink purchase.
4/120 Terry St, Rozelle
Sundays from 5pm-9pm, sees $14 negronis and Americanos come with free stuzzichini (snacks).
51 Riley St, Woolloomooloo
Monday-Saturday from 5pm-6pm, enjoy $1 oysters alongside dishes including chorizo corn dogs and soft shell crab bao plus $10 Aperol spritzes and $8 glasses of wine.
8/18 Danks St, Waterloo
The Wog With The Grog has taken over the bar for winter and from5pm-7pm daily will be serving up modern apericena favourites such as polenta chips, gorgonzola and prosciutto plus Italian varietals such as Lugana and L’Assioma, from $8, which aren’t usually sold by the glass.
78 Stanley St, Darlinghurst
This Spanish tapas bar does it as they do in Granada, for every drink you order, you get a free tapita which could include cured meats, mushrooms in olive oil, garlic and parsley or patatas bravas, crispy potato chunks with a creamy, spicy sauce.