Thursday, October 11, 2012

Go with the Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney

I wouldn't have thought that one of the most exciting and talked-about new Sydney bars at the moment would be a hotel bar. But Grain Bar at the Four Seasons Hotel isn't your average hotel bar.

Hotel lobby entrance to Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, George Street
In all of four weeks or so, Grain Bar has been wowing Sydney-siders with its unique bar snacks and stunning interiors, redefining the benchmark for hotel bars and indeed, bars in general.

Grain bar and interiors
Let's start with the gorgeously spacious, multi-wood-toned room full of arty design quirks and feature walls. Or the floating back spirits bar, or unparalleled bar food menu by Bar H's Hamish Ingham as consulting chef.

Complimentary nuts
We started with nuts while perusing the drinks options: the Australian-centric wine list with an added, uncommon Japanese wine; the classic, fruity and very tempting cocktails; or the very local yet very international beer list catering to Sydney local, Japanese, Canadian, American or Mexican beer drinkers.

The bar by day
Seating choices include a perch at the bar on comfy stools, or facing George Street for people watching, or any of the cosy corners or small tables dotted around the luxurious space.

Double straining cocktail
There's nothing like proper cocktails on a weekend afternoon and the Grain bar staff are out to impress, as if the spirits bar didn't already do that.

Quaker cocktail
The Quaker cocktail is a deep red concoction shaken with fresh raspberries, and both brandy and rye whiskey. Lemon juice and sugar soften the alcoholic punch, making it more manageable for those new to brandy.

The Governor Golden Ale by The Rocks Brewery
Grain Bar stocks two beers from nearby The Rocks Brewery (literally up the road at Harts Pub). The Governor Golden Ale is a slightly cloudy mid-weight beer that's lightly fruity and a good start to the weekend.

The Grain Lager - especially brewed for Grain Bar - is a lighter and paler refreshing beer and would be my preference on a hot day.

Red claw yabbies
There are many great starting spots on the bar menu, but make sure to say hello to the red claw yabbies at some point.

These relaxed looking crustaceans lay cooked and whole across a plate with a neat pile of pink salt flakes, lemon and burnett leaf dotted zingy yoghurt.

Red claw yabbies with burnett yoghurt
It was snacking with absolute ease and decadence as the tail meat was removed and ready to pop into the mouth, and both claws already cracked.

While a squeeze of lemon and a few flakes of salt were all that was really needed, the yoghurt dipping sauce gave the yabbies a sense of refinement and completeness.

Our lardo on toast, black and white garlic, spring pollen
Top contender for prettiest dish of the year has to be the petal-strewn house-cured lardo (pork back fat). This "spring pollen" didn't get my hayfever going, thankfully, but was a colourful addition to an otherwise monochrome dish.

The toasted Sonoma miche loaf was divine, while the garlic and melt-on-the-tongue sheets of opaque fat are made for each other, if unexpectedly.

Old man's fried salt bush
There's a lot of buzz around Grain's battered and fried salt bush dish, which is an intriguing alternative to fried potato as a bar snack.

A native Australian plant, the salt bush is fried with the stem in a ridiculously tasty and salty batter (more beer, please), with the leaves picked off for eating.

Served with aioli, the fried salt bush seems to have quickly become a signature dish, but one that also appears at Bar H in a slightly different guise.

Grain Burger and fries - pulled beef short rib, radish, onions and sorrel
The Grain Burger is a tall, wet and juicy one; another signature item. Featuring a meat filling of saucy pulled beef short rib, the towering burger comes with fries on the side, but I'd also recommend extra napkins.

With much admiration for the pickled radish slices, thick cheddar cheese slice and wealth of health in the salad, I'm not sure the Grain Burger suits slow, delicate eaters like me who probably have to resort to the burger crime of cutlery.

Special mention goes to the stunning range of crockery on which the dishes are served: asymmetrical yet natural, and strongly desired for my kitchen cabinets.

Media Soiree

I'd been alerted to the opening of Grain Bar a few weeks back by, among other channels, a media gathering in the bar's second week.

Pink Lady cocktail
The evening view onto George and Alfred Streets is somewhat magnetic, especially with a well-balanced cocktail in hand and a warm breeze through the front windows, watching the rat race go by home.

The applejack and sloe gin Pink Lady is a pretty fizz with pomegranate syrup lending the pink hue.

Potato crackling
The potato crackling, another crunchy and salty bar snack, has a starchiness that reveals its origins, but a look and crunch closer to pork crackling.

Steamed brioche and smoked trout roe
The unexpected standout offering from the gathering was the steamed brioche rounds with smoked trout roe. Stunning in presentation, the soft steamed bun was nice and light, but the bright orange roe packed so much more punch than its elegant array indicated.

Every bite was an explosion of salty, smoky, fish egg goodness, all smoothed over and kept together with creme fraiche.

Clair de Lune oysters by Steve Feletti
It's hard to fault freshly shucked oysters and the Clair de Lunes are exquisite with or without lemon.

Wild kingfish tartare, pickled beetroots and seaweed crackers
The kingfish tartare, served on the cracker as a canapé on this occasion was a mouthful of freshness, tartness and crunch. It's certainly one of the more interesting, innovative fish tartare variations around.

Herbed ricotta, new season broad beans, charred flatbread
A cheese course like no other, the house-made herbed ricotta is served in a bowl broad beans and other greens, and farro (or pearl barley - I always confuse the two). The whey ricotta is out-of-this-world amazing; full of creamy flavour and enlightening herbaceousness.

The wedge of charred flatbread suffices as an eating tool but a spoon certainly would help the fresh, green flavours along.

Ice bar by night

Mini pavlova with muntrie berry
Desserts probably aren't found on too many bar menus around town, but at Grain there's a variety including a mini pavlova - that Australian or New Zealand classic - which regularly changes toppings.

The sweet stewed muntrie berries with rosemary flowers was a not-too-sweet delight.

Chef Joshua Niland
Young chef Joshua Niland heads up the Grain kitchen under Ingham's consulting chef role. His enthusiasm around the menu, with almost everything made in-house, is exciting and certainly made me smile.

Niland will also head up the kitchen at the new Four Seasons Hotel restaurant (formerly Kable's), which is currently undergoing refurbishment to be ready in November.

The 'back' bar

Consulting chef Hamish Ingham and Rebecca Lines at the media soiree
The newly named venue, The Woods, will also have chef Ingham consulting on the menu, and if it's anything like Grain, it's going to be a stunner.

See more images from the media soiree on my Facebook page.

Food, booze and shoes dined and attended the media soiree at Grain Bar as a guest, with thanks to RF Media and Four Seasons Hotel Sydney.

Grain Bar on Urbanspoon


Ramen Raff said...

Oh man, l looks awesome! I had a browse through their menu and it looks damn good. I wanna get my hands on the pulled beef short rib burger.

missklicious said...

The cocktails look fab!

Missy Piggy said...

Potato crackling - wow! I want that...and the saltbush dish too. It look goods actually!

thang@noodlies said...

I'm not a bar man, but this place looks hot.

Helen (Grab Your Fork) said...

The salt bush just proves the power of deep frying. It makes everything look good! lol. And although the lardo looks pretty with flowers on it, I love enjoying it melt on the tongue all its own.

Tina said...

Hi Raff - And they've got a new fish burger now which I can't wait to try!

Hi missklicious - Indeed, cant't wait to sample a few more from the menu :)

Hi Miss Piggy - Yep, I'd definitely recommend the salt bush. It's a really unusual but tasty sensation.

Hi Thang - Sure is! You might need to become a bar man ;)

Hi Helen - Yes, but also tastes great; a fab drinking snack. Oh, but the flowers are so, SO pretty!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

Really loving this place and the fish burger is amaze! It reminds me of a maccas filet o fish but better lol a little bit of nostalgia with each bite :) need to go back for more. My fav is their trout brioche ^^

hou said...

t makes everything look good! lol. And although the lardo looks pretty with flowers on it.
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