“I’m in a New York State of mind”. These famous lyrics from the great Billy Joel have never rang more true for us than whilst visiting Employees Only. The mystery behind the #EO door has definitely extended the ‘VIP vibes without the ego” notion from NYC to Sydney.
We were captured from the moment we walked past the glowing ‘Psychic’ neon sign and into the – to be quite frank – sultry and opulent entrance. The grand staircase, gold-flecked walls and mirrored vista begs for a cheeky selfie… but we contain ourselves instead to marvel at the art deco chandelier above us.
Once in the Tim Leveson designed venue, we felt an immediate warmth from the brass and mirrored bar to the well placed saffron lighting. We wanted to dance on the ceiling when we looked up to see the beautifully parqueted timber, contrasted with the raw industrial dark concrete beams. Nothing in EO is run-of-the-mill and everything is inviting and intriguing to the eye. This statement also includes the friendly sophisticated (yet achingly cool) employees. The award-winning bar senior (affectionately dubbed “Mummy”) is busy making artful cocktails whilst we are warmly greeted by another who is bantering with a couple seated at the elegant marble tiled bar. Our attentive and lovely server Abby saw us to our table and adeptly walked us through the eclectic drinks and cocktail menu as we settled in.
Cocktails were the order of the day (when in Rome) and the Quivino was our first choice. A crisp fresh botanist gin, shaken with house-made quince syrup, Pinot Noir & fresh Lime served straight up it was a sweet treat to start the evening off right. Next on the hit list was their ‘Improved Margarita’ which as Abby mentioned zestfully was their “version of a Tommy Marg with less ‘bite’ than a punch-in-the face full tequila hit. It’s slightly sweeter and more palatable than a regular margarita”. The Tromba Blanco tequila is deftly shaken with fresh citrus Cointreau agave and orange blossom served over ice.
Appetisers saw us spoilt with the #EO Signature steak tartare. Beautiful steak and herbs with the artful finishing touches (egg and spices) are done right there at our table with crunchy crostinis & fresh green salad leaves. Francophiles be warned; you’ll be taken back to Paris by best tartare you’ll have outside France; delicate yet flavoursome and extremely moorish.
A must have was the impeccable seared scallops, drizzled in squid ink vinaigrette and pear & celery remoulade beurre noisette served with fried sage. So beautifully fresh and buttery, the saltiness of the inky scallops was offset by the savoury sage and celery flavours.
The NY strip steak, from whence EO in it’s essence came, did not disappoint. Whilst we generally prefer our steak on the slightly more rare side (we ordered medium rare but would suggest the rare should you be that way inclined) the bone marrow crumb was nothing short of delicious and the jus accented the dish beautifully. The gnocchi was unique and light with the addition of fresh crunchy greens. The peas added a lovely creaminess to the dish and created the perfect balance. Potato gratin was layer upon layer of heaven. We became wee neanderthals and unceremoniously dunked forkful after forkful into the strip steak sauce (which by the way… we would do again #zeroregrets).
An elegant speakeasy meets modern fine dining. Employees Only is a renaissance borne of a New York from a bygone era. The menu is precise and complex yet has a stylish nonchalance about it that mirrors the essence of the venue itself. It makes you want to be a part of the ‘in-crowd’ clique that is – employees only.
Employees Only : 9A Barrack Street, Martin Place, 2000
Hours: Monday to Thursday 5pm-3am Fridays 4pm-3am Saturdays 5pm-3am