Imagine striding into The Grand Budapest Hotel, at the faded end of its legacy, when its former, fur-coat-wearing patrons have been replaced by suits and midriffs. This is Della Hyde, the latest venue from Hamish Watts and Ben Carroll of Applejack. Curiously, for something so bright and opulent, it’s in a basement on Oxford Street. “We're so used to seeing the same style of space pop up all over the city: there's dark, pared-back, prohibition; raw, rustic bars. We wanted to create something that was very different,” Watts says .
Even aside from the pink and green pastel palette, rows of columns and general opulence, Della Hyde marks a new direction for the group. “It’s got more of a drinks focus, it’s more of a bar than a restuaurant. This menu is a bit more relaxed in that sense,” Watts says.
Carroll and Watt have given Applejack’s Group’s bar manager, Lachy Sturrock, free reign over the bar. The young barman is leading with a list of five seasonal cocktails. “The pressure is on me to shine, and it's a tough neighbourhood – there's a lot of good cocktails going around,” says Sturrock. He bases all his cocktails on the what’s at the market. He gets an email every week from his fruit insider saying what’s available, what’s good and what’s at a good price. The fruits come in and he, the bar team and general manager Joe Worthington brainstorm and taste-test 15 cocktails until they’ve got the perfect five. “Currently we've got peaches, blackberries, kiwifruit, mango and rhubarb, which is just about to finish its season. Then in two weeks our drinks will change again.”
The underground bar’s first fortnight features a Pisco And Apricot Brandy Shake with orgeat, lemon and an artfully flayed flower of peach. There are also four regular cocktails, including the drink Sturrock initially pitched to Carroll and Watts after hearing the bar idea: a floral Negroni infused with cold-drip coffee and a pungently charred orange peel. “We wanted to focus on the cocktail angle, but also have some beers and wines from regions you wouldn't have heard of before,” Sturrock says. He’s not exaggerating. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Dutch light Arc Alley or an IPA from Scotland’s Brew Dog Punk in many other bars.
Food, on the other hand – by executive chef James Privett – is more straightforward. There are only nine things to order, most of which have been exported from Applejack’s other venues (The Butler, The Botanist, Bondi Hardware and SoCal). The most substantial, in flavour and size, is the sweet, gravy-covered pork short ribs with a Levantine spice paste.
34 Oxford Street, Darlinghurst