The Lobo Plantation is the best rum bar in Sydney. It is not me telling you this; it is the numerous accolades hanging in the glass cabinet that publicise it. It ranked number four in the Time Out Sydney Bar Guide 2014 and has won the following:
• Highly Commended Best New Bar – Time Out Awards 2014
• Winner of People’s Choice – Time Out Awards 2014
• Winner of Best Fitout – Time Out Awards 2014
• Top 10 – Best International High Volume Cocktail Bar – Spirited Awards (TOTC)
• Most popular new restaurant – Urbanspoon 2013 Top Restaurant
• Best Small Bar – Best of Sydney 2013
To see for myself, I visited Lobo Plantation on 24 June 2014. I walked down those winding stairs to a basement decorated with emerald wall paper, framed portraits, rattan lamps, and dark wooden furniture. Everyone was in elated spirits celebrating the first birthday of the venue. The décor was reminiscent of the aristocratic opulence of prerevolutionary Cuba. It was a time when Cuba’s members of the upper class passed their time gambling in swanky casinos, watching extravagant shows at the Tropicana, and drinking rum cocktails at Ernest Hemmingway’s favourite haunt, La Floridita. Cuba was an exotic playground for foreigners as well. Everyone from celebrities to the American masses flocked there for a good time
In fact, Lobo Plantation was named after Cuba’s last sugar baron, Julio Lobo. He was a complex figure who on the one hand financed the glitziest hotels in the 1950’s, courted movie stars Joan Fontaine and Bette Davies and, filled a swimming pool in one of his estates with perfume for film star Ester Williams to swim in. On the other hand, he championed the rights of low-paid workers. In the end, he fled the revolution, leaving behind his palace, extensive art collection and vast fortune to live a quiet life in Madrid.
DJs Jeff Fellow and Paul Mant provided the hits while waitresses served canapés that were shipped in from The Food Society in Darlinghurst. Drinks served were the Red Stripe – Jamaican Lager Beer, the classic Daiquiri and the Old Grogram (which contains El Dorado Demerara Rum, cinnamon sugar, lemon and Lobo Stout Vermouth).
The event was attended by regulars, hospitality elites and rum importors/distributors such as rum distributors Quittin’ Time Pty Ltd and THINK SPIRITS. General Manager and co-owner, Jared Merlino, (former employee of Merivale) was at the helm to ensure the night was a success.
This bar may be reminiscent of a decadent and whirligig period of history in Cuba but its friendly service, delicious cocktails and staggering collection of rums will ensure that it does not all come abruptly to an end (as Julio Lobo’s fortune did with Fidel Castro)
To all those who gave me their business card on the night, I attended two events that night and misplaced them. Send me an email and I will send any photos you request. — at The Lobo Plantation