There is something about Vietnam thats gets you doing things you don’t normally do; eating soup for breakfast (pho), putting condensed milk into coffee (sooo good) and stepping out into a heaving stream of traffic hoping you have the ability to part motorbikes and cars like Moses.
Whilst Asian food has been mixed up, we haven’t seen much bravery playing with the Viet classics, nor have we see the likes of Forty Licks, it’s a super sexy basement bar and restaurant which brings back memories of those heady nights of wild cocktails. GSBN Studio have designed their first restaurant. Steel mesh frameworks are interwoven with soft curves and curls of rattan cane, as if nature is breaking free of modern constraints. Seating areas are like dining paddy fields, each platform dropping level by level to the subterranean bar. Exposed brickwork retains its heritage feel.
Start with ‘something little’ such as housemade pickles as a palate teaser. Dainty black tapioca crackers topped with Shark Bay blue swimmer crab with torn betel leaf, young coconut escabeche and Jicama (mexican turnip) could do with a bit more kick, but you get a power punch with three plump charcoal grilled Berkshire pork skewers each laid on its own lettuce wrap ready to be dunked in citrus soy. Their signature dish is an inspired reinvention of the crispy pancake with tumeric we all know and love. Here, it’s used as a crispy cracker topped with sautéed king prawn, bean sprouts, Vietnamese herbs & pork floss – be warned they are tiny, but addictive.
The BBQ and Rotisserie highlights include Hiramasa kingfish wrapped in a banana leaf, marinated in turmeric with bún noodles, topped with crushed peanuts along with a glistening Bannockburn chicken, cleavered into sections and aged in Vietnamese miso.
Chef Justin North of Concept Hospitality has got us out of our comfort zone. So too has award winning bartender, Kurtis Bosley, whose Lick Me Forty (Reposado Tequila, dandelion & Burdock Bitters, vanilla syrup, lemon) is proving popular, creating a playful cocktail menu.
Forty Licks is one to add to your ‘must go list’. It’s bold, original and clever in design and menu. It brings a new reason to cross over York and George Street now with the added bonus of leaving the insanity Vietnamese traffic behind.
Lower Level, York Street, Sydney
(Hint – its next to the Bavarian Beerhaus, just push on the doorway as you go into your right with the XXX on it!) or via CBRE lobby on 363 George Street)
Hours: Mon-Fri 11am till late