Melbourne and Sydney’s lockdowns have delayed so many new bar and restaurant openings, thirsty and hungry punters are now spoiled for choice. With pretty new boozers to breathtaking new designer hot spots, now the silly season can officially begin.
Without a doubt the most talked about opening is the multi-level, multi-venue Shell House in the heart of Sydney’s CBD. The Point Group splashed out $2.4 billion on the heritage redevelopment. The Menzies Bar – the first phase in the building’s rebirth opened recently.
Completed in 1938, the striking Shell House was constructed by the Shell Oil Company. Before bright neon monikers adorned city skyscrapers, companies painted their signage on their corporate HQ’s. During the recent construction, the towering red-lettered Shell signage was discovered and is destined to feature (through glass) in the completed development.
The rare interwar palazzo façade was crowned with an Art Deco clock tower that could be seen across the then low-rise Harbour City. The tower clock quickly became a landmark and will now be the cherry on top of the ‘new’ building.
During the meticulous restoration and new build, the 400-tonne clock was kept aloft and suspended at 55 metres over the site. It was supported by over 1400 tonnes of structural steel, while the 65-metre facade was also propped to allow the gut renovation. As a result, it is believed to be one of the tallest retained heritage facades in the world.
The Menzies Hotel
Before Merivale took over Sydney, the place to be and be seen was the Menzies Hotel.
When it was opened by the Premier of NSW, RJ Heffron, on October 17, 1963, the Menzies Hotel was the first major International hotel constructed in Sydney in nearly 30 years.
The hotel was named for noted hotelier Archibald Menzies. (Not the Prime Minister of the time Robert, or Bob). The hotel build cost 2.5 million pounds and spanned 260 rooms and suites.
The opening was the Sydney social event of the year. The Beach Boys were imported to sing a short set. and to keep in with the beach theme, tonnes of sand was imported from a Harbourside beach.
James Boyer an American expat, was appointed the Menzies Hotel’s Head Chef. The opening night scene was set with chef Boyer’s ice sculptures, extravagant buffet and open bar. The hotel quickly became the scene of all-night after parties while International celebrities were entertained by the biggest names in cabaret.
The restaurant and bar offerings expanded, and by the mid-70’s the hotel became NSW’s largest liquor licensee. Later, the office building next door – Shell House, was incorporated and converted to add more suites and rooms.
The Menzies Bar
The ground-level space is designed to transport you to another time, if not another place. Gold, brass and marble make every corner a star. It’s glamorous in a clubby, warm yet relaxed way. Interior Stylist Anna Hewett and Woods Bagot Architects have created an intriguing space. It’s been strategically designed to capture your attention and keep you firmly planted on the slinky, room-length banquette.
The blackened steel bar plays second fiddle to an overhead bar hamper that holds 1300 spirit bottles. The reinforced mosaic tumbled marble floors, booths, and a marble fireplace add to the intimate 60’s feel.
The bistro style menu was designed by former Aria Head Chef Joel Bickford. Classic European dishes are given a contemporary spin for lunch, pre-dinner drinks and supper with cocktails. Chef Bickford says, “We’ve sourced beautiful produce to incorporate into stunning dishes across the bistro menu. The menu showcases exciting and interesting dishes, as well as bistro classics, so there’s something for everyone to enjoy.”
Smaller plates include Spanner crab crumpets with sweet corn and lardo and of course, oysters. There’s a low ferment sourdough toastie with fontina, black pig ham & pickles, while the burger is classic Wagyu Beef. Nduja mayo and lemon nuzzle up to a Fritto Misto of prawns, ling and calamari.
For larger appetites, there is a 400gm boneless rib eye or pork cotoletta. Then, of course, there’s a cheese plate, creme caramel or affogato for a sweet finish.
Wine and Cocktails
Wine Director Shun Eto has compiled yet another extensive list of classics and surprises. The offerings from family-based vineyards include biodynamic, sustainable and minimal intervention wines.
Shun enthused, “Writing a wine list in lockdown has been the hardest task I have ever completed in my hospo career, however, it gave me time to think and put all my heart into writing the best list I can for our guests. We wrote a wine list that pushes boundaries for Sydney yet is familiar and ultimately absolutely delicious”.
Cocktails run from the classic to the downright fun. Considering the Menzies Bar’s financial end of town location, the appropriately named ‘In-Cider Trading’ is destined to be a favourite. But it’s the Sicilian Margarita – Tequila, Limoncello, Sichuan and fresh lemon juice that sounds like the winner.
Martini o’clock is a reality – make mine a double
The daily martini hour is always a double. So, when that big, old tower clock strikes 4pm relax into two hours of martinis stirred through shards cut from huge countertop ice blocks. Pair up with a lobster roll for a perfect end to the workday.
Shell House has also debuted the Sky Bar with the Clock Tower and the Dining Room and Terrace to open soon.
Menzies Bar & Bistro is open Monday to Saturday from 12pm to 2am.