Monday, November 15, 2010

Happy birthday, dear Zeta

It’s not really beach weather yet (which is rather unseasonal for Sydney spring), but five-year-olds celebrating their birthdays will have their way. Hilton’s Zeta Bar turned five in retro beach style, inviting a whole bunch of friends in from the grey evening outside to drink and eat the night away.

Zeta's 5th birthday retro beach soiree, Zeta Bar,
Hilton Sydney, George Street, Sydney
Heavily sponsored by Belvedere Vodka and Chandon, I’m not sure I’ve ever seen (and tasted) so many cocktails in the one evening. We were also responsibly kept well fed, though I still question the icy bucket drinks served by beachy models on the makeshift beach.

One big bottle of Belvedere Vodka

Deconstructed rapberry mule
Exiting the elevator in to Zeta Bar, we’re greeted by spoon laden trays of raspberry vodka jelly cubes with what looked like dehydrated lime slices for a deconstructed raspberry mule. Topped with a sprinkle of fizzy white sherbet, these bittersweet jellies got the mouth party started, and set the scene for an evening of whimsy and fun.

Great singers got the party started too

Fresh peach bellini with peach air
We first grabbed flutes of rather frou-frou peach bellini, topped with a smooth, white peach flavoured foam that was a delight to lick off. The pink bellini itself was a little warmer and less bubbly than desired; but with hundreds, if not thousands, of drinks to be prepared, it was forgiven.

Roast beef salad with mixed peppers & rum salsa
Our first sighting of food comes not long after settling in with the bellini, with the attendants easily managing the initial, still spacious venue. The thin slice of rare roast beef was cold, tender and surprisingly well matched with the fine dice of sweet pineapple and red and yellow capsicums.

Ahi tuna with wasabi mayonnaise and cress on cucumber
More exciting I found was the seared tuna, rolled in pepper, sliced and placed over a thick cucumber slice. The flavours were watered down by the cucumber if taken in the one mouthful, but bitten in half I could appreciate the delicate texture of the pepper-rolled tuna with the added flavour of wasabi mayonnaise.

The back bar
From the back bar, the top of which was completely lined with cocktail glasses, came my favourite cocktail of the night. I think it was pink grapefruit with orange, with the requisite Belvedere Vodka of course, definitely a girly drink: pink, sugary and delicately held in a martini glass while I tottered past and through people as Zeta Bar completely filled up.

Pink grapefruit and ginger cosmopolitan
There was another bar near the terrace too, serving Belvedere mixes at request: on ice, with soda or ginger beer; or indeed, even beers for the non vodka inclined.

Chandelier in the VIP lounge
We also headed into the white curtained VIP lounge which was decked out with Chandon, which itself was flowing as freely as the liquid nitrogen and its associated cold, white gas.

Liquid nitrogen and Chandon

Liquid nitrogen in
Foamed blobs of Chandon sparkling white were placed into a bowl with the misty liquid nitrogen, remerging as softly frozen white blobs.

Chandon nitro puffs
With a sprinkle of something probably meant to restore the fizz, we were instructed to put the frozen puffs into our mouths and take it in at the back of the throat, exhaling through the nose for the full experience. I must be incapable of following instructions as I didn’t have nitrogen gas shooting out my nose, but still had the bubbly sensation of Chandon at the back of my throat.

Fruit filled glasses for the Seaside Summer Punch
Plenty more drinks and food beckoned outside in the warmer main section of the bar. Huge containers of red and white sangria were being distributed into awaiting, fruit filled glasses – Belvedere Vodka sangria, that is.

Red sangria
The red sangria was quite traditional in flavour despite the unorthodox use of vodka (though I guess whatever goes, really), with orange notes and Hennessy we’re told, while the white sangria tasted too much of white wine, I thought, and not enough of the fruity fun that its supposed to have.

Fish and chips
At this point of the evening, one could barely move in the bar with very few secluded corners to rest a drink or four, let alone cardboard noodle boxes filled with fish and chips. Drinks were plentiful at every bar, in addition to playful yet alcoholic treats stationed on or near the terrace overlooking the picturesque QVB.

Cocktail sorbets
Not new to Zeta Bar was the fridge full of colourful sorbets not made for the kiddies. The Belvedere and tonic was particularly citrusy and refreshing, while the piña colada was so tropical even the rainy skies went away (possibly also a natural phenomenon).

Mixologist Grant Collins makes a Long Island snow cone
There were also especially delectable snow cones made on request; freshly shaved ice doused with a Long Island syrup that thankfully wasn’t as deadly as other incarnations I’ve had in younger years.

The neighbouring fairy floss was an elaborate sugary concoction of a Polish Mule – a vodka, ginger beer, lime and sugar mixture apparently dried for four days before being ground into sugar and spun into woollen balls on a stick. The final spritz was really the only ginger flavour coming through for me other than the sugar, but fairy floss always takes me back to more innocent, happy times.

A whole lot of lemon and lime for Zeta's lemonade
There was also lemonade, but Zeta’s rather strong lemonade – of a traditional style with Belvedere Cytrus vodka and sugary lemon juice, served tall but just not cold enough. I also saw Raspberry Mules doing the rounds later, but having lost count of drinks within the first two hours, I politely declined one in favour of more food.

Mini cheese burgers with pickles
The pretty trays of mini burgers came around later in the night, something more substantial and ideal for soaking up boozy drinks. With cheese, pickles and a strongly herb-flavoured meat pattie, this was filling and definitely my saviour of the night.

Interesting were the deep fried golden parcels that turned out to be pumpkin ravioli, soft and burningly hot inside, served with a creamy dipping sauce. I’ve once tried baked ravioli as part of a salad (in the middle of a huge park in Munich known for nudists, as it were), but never deep fried. I’m not sure if I liked it – I would much prefer gnocco fritto with cheeses and cured meats for my deep fried pasta fix.

Coconut crumbed prawns
One of the last food trays doing the rounds were piles of large, deep fried, crumbed prawns; crisp and scarily moreish with mango mayonnaise to dip. I may or may not have chased around attendants with this dish.

Cider toffee apples
And like any good kids party, I made away from Zeta’s birthday celebrations with a goodie – a cider toffee apple. I haven’t had a toffee apple for years, and even as a child I was guided away from them when perusing the supermarket fruit section. There was no one stopping me here.

The toffee apple was also spritzed with more booze, apple cider in this case. I was looking forward to a refreshing, crisp apple at the end of the night, just to change it up from burgers, fish and chips, and deep fried prawns.

But the green apple was disappointingly soft and soggy, having being pierced with forks before toffee coating, presumably so as to infuse and flavour the apple with apple cider. Sometimes, boozing just goes a step too far and ruins everything.

Nonetheless, I kept it for its crisp and sweet outer, not really caring what passersby or the taxi driver thought of a clearly-not-child-aged person wielding and licking a toffee apple with glee. After all, it was a birthday party – and I’ll have a toffee apple if I want to.

Thanks to Mark Communications for the party invite – and Happy birthday to Zeta Bar.

Zeta Bar on Urbanspoon


chocolatesuze said...

love a themed party! naw now i want a toffee apple

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That looks like lots of fun! I saw Anna's post on it too :)

Tina said...

Hi suze - Do they still sell them at supermarkets?

Hi Lorraine - It was indeed!

Simon Food Favourites said...

looks brilliant. would have loved to be there :-)

Tina said...

Hi Simon - Was good fun ;)

Miss Feathers said...

Looks like fun. I love Zeta Bar's deconstructed cocktails.


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