Zeta Bar Farmer’s Market
As you wade through Sydney’s dressed-to-impress Friday night after-work crowd it rises out of the darkness like an oasis… Beckoning you with bright lights and images of luscious fresh produce, the Farmer’s Market at Zeta Bar is a breath of fresh air – or bite of fresh fruit as the case may be – in an otherwise dark and moody drink scene.
Zeta Bar is known for launching new concept specialty bars on a regular basis and these experiences are the creations of Zeta’s expert mixologist and consultant Grant Collins. The Farmer’s Market really puts the skills of the cheerful ‘cocktail grocers’ to the test as each drink is different from the last and the ingredients are at the whim of the customer’s tastes and mood.
Don’t let the white picket fence blockade put you off, anyone can enter – the barriers are simply there to add to the staging while helping stem the flow of traffic and cut down a bit on the wait time at the colorfully lit bar.
Once inside the Market the first order of business is to grab a paper bag and start collecting market-fresh ingredients for your cocktail base.
You can go it on your own, perusing the crates and stands for seasonal fruit, veggies, fresh herbs and spices, or flag down a Grocer Waiter and ask for help. The daisy-duke and red-bandana wearing ladies are well briefed, making suggestions on add-ins or putting together a combination based on your mood or a key ingredient.
Having selected on my own a pomegranate, ginger and some mint, a nashi pear recommendation from the nearest Grocer was readily accepted. Then my companions and I were off to the bar, produce bags in hand to choose our spirits. I opted for a mocktail – saving room for a taste of some of the specials later on – but the other ladies had spiced dark rum and vodka to compliment their respective produce choices.
The mixologists use your selections as loosely or literally as they choose and develop a unique drink for each customer. Adding in everything from liqueurs and essences to liquid nitrogen mixed with essential oils, an otherwise humble selection of fruit and veggies is turned into a divine cocktail.
The glassware is as varied as the drinks within – ranging from jars to elegant stemware to a whole coconut – and Customers not only get to name their drink but the recipe is printed on a card for you to take away.
If the array of options is too much to take after a full week you can choose from the black-boarded list of Farmer’s Specials. Last week featured a ruby-hued Beetroot Mojito garnished with a baby purple carrot and Nitro Milk Bottles – a new-world White Russian spiked with liquid nitrogen.
Trays of mini flower pots containing chocolate soil and absinth-spiked worms are circulated around the market and a hay-scented spray adds to the experience with another level of olfactory immersion.
Drinks at the Farmer’s Market start from $18 for the blackboard Farmer’s Specials and $19 for a create your own blend. These prices are on par with Zeta’s standard cocktails but with an extra level of interactivity and showmanship. If you are heading out in the city on a Friday evening the Market is a fun twist on the usual suspects. Best hurry though, as with all the concept experiences the Farmer’s Market is only open for a limited time. You can stop by on Friday evenings from 6pm, May through late June.
ZETA BAR FARMER’S MARKET – HILTON – SYDNEY
Level 4, 488 GEORGE STREET
Chef’s Table breakfast at glass
This Friday I again found myself at the Sydney Hilton, only this time it was for breakfast at glass. Now let me clarify briefly, Luke Mangan is still at the helm of glass brasserie. His team does lunches and dinners daily, but breakfast falls into the realm of the executive chef of the hotel.
The intimate gathering was held to introduce a new signature breakfast dish created by Carl Middleton – the Hilton’s new executive chef. Responsible for all aspects of hotel dining, Carl has only recently joined the team, having most recently spent two years in the Blue Mountains running Darley’s at Lilianfels.
glass does breakfast every day of the week and it is available to anyone – not just those staying at the hotel. The enormous spread has all the usual suspects for a buffet with a few extra touches for good measure – whole honey-comb anyone?
Now lets be honest, hotel food is in general, hotel food – but breakfast at glass sits firmly at the top end town with freshness and variety – would you expect anything less from a meal served under the glass banner – and in the same dining room?
The fruit bar creates custom juices, the cakes and pastries are made in-house and the products not produced on the premises are of the highest quality.
However what I found really interesting this morning was hearing Carl’s approach to his responsibilities at the Hilton. He has an obvious passion for what he does and it shows through in how he talks about both food and his staff. A high regard for training and retention means he gives his chefs the chance to take the reigns – even naming a number of items on the refurbished room-service menu after the chefs who created them – and giving them the opportunity to develop a broad compliment of skills.
On a tour of the kitchens after breakfast time was taken to stop and acknowledge by name the people who were responsible for the food we had consumed earlier.
It is apparent that Carl has a great passion for fresh seasonal produce and a low tolerance for over-orchestrated packaging. Talk of kitchen gardens, green roofs, city beehives and house-made jams excited the taste-buds of everyone at the table… and then there was the smoked salmon, the reason we were all there. The first purchase for his new kitchen on accepting the executive chef position was a smoker – how brilliant is that – and the dry cured, beach wood cold smoked salmon that heros in the new signature dish was absolutely divine.
The balanced smoke hitting on the middle of your pallet, just enough moisture to have a silky mouth feel, sliced thick enough to hold up to the eggs and potato scone [more a potato cake than what I think about as a scone, lets call it a rosti shall we?] it was served with. Yum and yum again. If only it came in a packet, humm, maybe soon…
Now with the Continental Buffet starting at $35 and the Full Buffet at $42, glass is probably not an every weekend affair. For a business mid-week breakfast it would definitely suit and if you wanted a special morning out and had the appetite to support the price, go for it! There is an a la carte menu if the buffet is not your style and the Chef’s Signature Breakfast of beach wood house smoked salmon with English potato scones, pan roasted asparagus, free range scrambled eggs & baby watercress comes in at $24.
I am excited to see what Carl will do with both the restaurants at the Hilton and the introduction of more house-made goods. Deliciousness is most definitely afoot.
glass BREAKFAST – HILTON – SYDNEY
Level 2, 488 GEORGE STREET
JJ attended the Zeta Bar Farmer’s Market and the Chef’s Table breakfast at glass as a guest of the Hilton. Thanks again for a delicious time!