Thursday, April 5, 2012

The White Hart: Drinks with a side of novelty

While I've been kind of oblivious living life south of the Sydney Harbour Bridge, parts of the north (that is, anything over the Bridge) have been blossoming with restaurants and bars that are actually worth the road toll over.

Neutral Bay is definitely a suburb on the rise, which is where I found myself one early evening at The White Hart; a British styled drinking house which was surprisingly busy for an early-in-the-week weeknight.

Summer Garden Martini at The White Hart, Grosvenor Street, Neutral Bay
I really just wanted a drink but I was convinced to have one of the more experiential cocktails that had just launched on the menu. The Summer Garden Martini incorporated a cocktail, both olfactory and auditory aspects, and a bit of hands-on gardening.

The props were admittedly adorable: the tiny shovel, rake, pot plant and dry ice filled watering can. I was to distribute the dry ice around my astroturf grass while regularly spritzing with a grass-scented spray as I drank. Post drink, there was an iPod tune to listen to, to really get into the whole summer garden scene.

Martini from the summer garden
There were still a few refinements to be made to the cocktail setup, including that of making sure the coupe-glassed cocktail could remain steadily upright on the astroturfed serving board.

The featured martini was essentially the UK Martini on the normal menu: Plymouth gin, fresh cucumber, elderflower cordial and apple juice - far from classic but very easy to drink. While spritzing grass frangrance, of course.

Absinthe snakes in edible soil
During or after the martini, there was also the matter of gardening to attend to with my miniature equipment. Amid the completely edible soil (of chocolate and several other elements) were "snakes" of sweet absinthe jellies which would be cut up for consumption with the shovel.

The rake came in very handy for afterwards, cleaning out the "soil" from the strands of grass. There was something a little zen garden about it all, as well as childhood playtime and ridiculous novelty, recommended only for those that have a good relationship with the playful child within.

Popcorn with parmesan salt
The White Hart is also on the free popcorn bandwagon with tiny bowls of pre-popped stuff served with a paremsan cheese salt. With a popcorn fiend like me around, the small bowls really don't cut it and we ended up with several refills.

Peppered smoked daiquiri
A little closer to mixologist Grant Collins' work at Zeta Bar was the 'Smoked, Washed & Baked' section of the menu. The Peppered Smoked Daiquiri was a picture of elegance with the grilled, caramelised lime wedge adding some character.

House cedar-smoked rum was the featured booze, shaken with peppercorn syrup and citrus for a very innovative take on the classic daiquiri. The spicy overtones of pepper might be a bit much for some, but I found this cocktail delighful.

Flagon O'mead
A few bowls of popcorn and some gardening had given me the courage to try The White Hart's mead; an in-house created honey wine, served almost Viking-style in a wooden tankard. One sniff should turn off lightweight drinkers as the alcoholic smell is anything but subtle.

There was definitely a noticeable honey flavour beneath the slightly citrusy alcoholic kick, although I probably wouldn't order it again. The trouble was that served in a beer stein-like vessel, I found I was drinking it more like an ale rather than the wine it was.

White Hart Bloody Mary
The British theme continued with the Bloody Mary cocktail involving Belvedere vodka, a dash of port, hot English mustard within the Bloody Mary mix and a Guinness emulsion that darkened the bottom of the glass. It was unlike any other Bloody Mary I've tasted before, mostly in a weird way.

Truffle arancini
There's nothing like a few drinks to get the deep-fried food cravings going, so we picked a few nibbles from the bar snack menu, which I believe Italian chef Danny Russo consults on. The golden panko-crumbed aranicini balls looked the goods, but were let down by dry, cheesy innards scented with truffle oil.

Sweet potato chips with aioli
Much better were the sweet potato chips which were the crunchiest rendition I've ever come across, helped by what looks like a light batter or flour coating. These crunchy surfaced chips retained their soft, sweet innards and were as well matched with aioli as their potato cousins.

While there is the option of proper meals in The White Hart restaurant, we took our leave before the mead kicked in too much and threatened drinkers with falling off the bar stools.

As a drinking hole for the locals, I can definitely see the appeal of The White Hart while for Bridge-crossers, the rather unique novelty of some of the drinks is well worth the Bridge toll at least once.

The White Hart on Urbanspoon


joey@forkingaroundsydney said...

A shame about the arancini as I love truffled cheesiness; we rarely go north of the bridge either despite the abundance of excellent eateries.

Jacq said...

I loved the drinks at The White Hart - the only problem was that there were so many to choose from it was hard to decide!

Lorraine @ Not Quite Nigella said...

That garden martini idea is very creative! It would be quite a talking point I'd imagine! :)

Unknown said...

The garden layout is such an awesome idea! The sweet potato chips look so good too!

Tina said...

Hi joey - It's a bit of an effort crossing the bridge, but well worth the effort on this occasion.

Hi Jacq - Haha, I had my garden drink decided for me! Fun but not something you'd get seconds of :)

Hi Lorraine - It was cute, but I saw a guy who got served one too. He essentially just drank the martini.

Hi Food is our religion - Certainly bringing a new sense of creativity to cocktails!

Vivian - vxdollface said...

damn i went past the other night! should've gone in >< i love how food is now served as a an artform :)

JJ @ 84thand3rd said...

We walk by this place all the time (stamp me with that local north-side badge) but have never gone in... Quite a creative cocktail menu, but you had me at sweet potato fries!

Tina said...

Hi Vivian - It is fun, but where will we draw the line between food and play?

Hi JJ - By far the best sweet potato fries I've ever had!

Rita (mademoiselle délicieuse) said...

That summer martini is a gorgeous set-up! I'm a total sucker for novelty - right from the moment I spotted the mini shovel and rake haha.

Lucas @ said...

I recall reading about these experiential cocktails in the Sydney Morning Herald a few years ago and it's a great idea. I want absinthe jelly snakes.

If only neutral Bay wasn't so far off the train line and us without a car... Perhaps a trek is required.


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