Grain Bar launches new cocktail menu sharing their mixologists cultural stories + DJ’s, artists and magicians

We first reviewed Grain Bar when it launched in 2012. Back then
Hamish Ingham (Bar H) created a media sensation with a tempura saltbush bar snack that made this beer loving woman feel like a giraffe gnawing cripsy leaves off a branch.

It’s easy to overlook a hotel bar as ‘blah’ but Grain (part of the Four Seasons Hotel in the Rocks) is a beauty, flanked in Queensland Blackbutt timber. A central bar with an illuminated suspended spirit bottle wall takes my eyes skyward. Walls are adorned with artisan pieces, copper and fine grained panelling. It’s darn sexy.

I settle into leather seats. The new ‘Epic’ cocktails ($30), are all the creation of the bar team led by Indian-born Sarath Nair who is celebrated as one of the world’s top bartenders. He takes me through the menu. His team honour their country of heritage, family and infuse their memories into the drinks they have created. The hero cocktails are on the first page of the menu. Pot Au Feu by Hai Ha from Vietnam, Curry Leaf Tiny Tini by Sarath from India, a Pina Fizz by Sanjeev from Nepal and Heart of the Garden by PABLO From Chile.

These are no ordinary cocktails (imagine a Heston Bluementhal experience) – these cocktails are about theatre. Each one is a drink but also a performance from smoke to floating bubbles or an edible garden, this is art and entertainment.

The Pot Au Feu arrives, a nod to Vietnam’s iconic “Pho.” Gin, infused with cloves and star anise, dances with rich beef broth. It’s an aromatic blend of flavours, a passport to mixologist Hai Ha’s Hanoi childhood. It arrives in a dark black bowl, a clear block of ice stamped with ‘G’ and accompanied by a cone of incense, smoke wafting upwards and a tiny piece of air dried wagyu. It’s stunning.

Curry Leaf Tiny Tini

The Curry Leaf Tiny Tini, from Sarath  is up next. It pays homage to India – with a delicate balance of herbs and spices, much like a well-crafted Martini with a single olive and a small carafe cooling on ice. It’s a heady blend of spirits and memories.

I didn’t try every cocktail (sorry Sanjeev, from Nepal) who apparently shakes up a Pina Fizz that transports us to sun-kissed beaches. I also didn’t try Pablo’s, (the Chilean maestro), Heart of the Garden, which is a botanical elixir that whispers of Santiago’s lush landscapes.

In need of sustenance I head into the food section. To be clear this is not the kind of alcohol soaking food you need to spend a night here. These are more canape style bites. This makes me sad as there are many more cocktails I would like to try, but alas this is a place you drink, then go to dinner or have dinner then head to Grain. A bowl of ‘bread & butter’ are morish triangles of fried flat bread which are accompanied with a little dipping pot of hummus and a fermented chilli emulsion ($14). Two duck bao buns arrive under a dome filled with smoke which is theatrically removed. It’s a delicious medley of capsicum, bean sprouts with Vietnamese spices ($22).

Lobster roll and Tuna Tartare

There is a yummy teeny lobster roll which I wish was 3x the size. A foodie twist on a bloody mary arrives. A wine glass is filled with a spicy tomato infusion and is accompanied by a trio of skewers – the first has three prawns, then four chunks of cucumber, and four cherry tomatoes. I am not sure if I should pull a prawn off and dunk it or dip the skewer in and eat it like a lollipop. Honestly I don’t care, it’s bloomin’ good fun!

We didn’t get to check out the entertainment on our visit but keep an eye on the website as they have regular DJ and Sax nights and a heap of new things brewing for Vivid!

Grain Bar, Four Seasons Hotel Sydney, 199 George Street, The Rocks, Sydney NSW 2000
Hours: Mon – Thurs 4.30pm to 11.30pm Fri and Sat 4.30pm – Midnight 

Note: Refer to website for the latest details – items subject to change

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).