Scout weaves a new spell: review
A new Surry Hills bar installation journeys into unusual, highly innovative territory
The cocktail arrives all glimmering and shiny. The Haymarket, as it is called, has a faintly golden hue, and a translucent, shimmering quality, almost like a potion. Beside the delicate glass sits a lime leaf sprinkled with what looks like sherbet.
Our waiter tells us to lick the leaf before sipping the drink. The leaf is coated with granules that include Sichuan spice, he explains, that will leave the tongue tingling and perhaps faintly numb.
He’s right. A lick and the magic begins, and a sip of the, er, potion completes an experience.
So, this is Scout, the installation cocktail bar on the top floor of the Dolphin Hotel, the creation of European mixologist of the year, Matt Whiley, from the London bar of the same name.
Sydney bars and Sydney pubs certainly aren’t what they were 10 years ago (for some insights into these trends, read our story on page x) with a huge growth in the quality and variety of our drinking dens, and some pretty remarkable thought and money being put into them by leading bar groups.
Scout is The Dolphin Hotel’s effort — an upmarket, upper-floor hideaway that activates for the pub what must have been a tricky space. To get into Scout, you enter through a black door located on the first floor, heading up an almost-secreted staircase painted black on all sides. Find yourself in one of two lowly-lit black rooms studded with spotlights that are strategically placed over small bar tables so the drinks themselves take centre stage, not unlike actors. The space has a quaint, almost attic-like feel about it; decoration is provided by an atmospheric assortment of large ficus plants, their oversized leaves reaching out in the darkness.
Whiley is all about trends and ideas. The Scout message is Live Off The Land, and there’s an ethos of the renewable, the native, the foraged and the found. The menu is populated with the weird and the intriguing; a leaf through tonight’s list tosses up items as varied as fermented oat soda, muyu vetiver gris, bunya nut, burrata whey, rosella, peach leaf and — in a wine — fermented roasted banana.
Our Haymarket, for instance, is a collection of Ketel One vodka, Thai basil, lime leaf, ginger, Sichuan spice, lemongrass, lime and electric lime leaf. Another cocktail, the Avo on Toast, contains 666 Butter (vodka), avocado, “brioche’d Prosecco”, orange wine, coffee oil and isolated lychee tannin.
The drinks are petite rather than effusive, but there’s a delicacy and an ideas trust behind them that is deeply authentic and original.
Executive chef Monty Koludrovic provides the food program, a tight list of nibbles made to complement the drinking. Tonight they include a Waldorf sandwich, sourdough with ’nduja and cured egg yolk, and smoked salmon with garlic lavosh and parmesan mayo. It’s easy to sit, drink, experiment and snack. You could last well into the night.
The Dolphin Hotel
412 Crown St Surry Hills