The Waratah is the two-storey Darlinghurst venue that, come November, promises nostalgic Aussie burgers with the lot, fairy bread ice-cream sandwiches and a weekly-changing cocktail menu. The bar, offering three distinct spaces, is the debut opening from Pollen Hospitality, a group made up of industry newcomer Cynthia Litster and Evan Stroeve (ex-Bulletin Place, Re, Shady Pines Saloon), the 2021 World Class Bartender of the Year. Alex Prichard, executive chef of Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, has designed the culinary concept alongside The Waratah’s head chef Lewin White (ex-Icebergs, Bistro Moncur, Re).
“I’ve been in hospitality for 12 years, and all the venues I worked in had a focus on Australian produce, seasonality and sustainability,” Stroeve tells Broadsheet. “So, it makes sense that the concept for my first bar is our imagining of modern Australia.”
At street level, The Waratah will welcome guests into a classic walk-ins-welcome public bar with a “familiar, lived-in” feel. It’ll be decked out rustically in old wood, with an expansive waratah-inspired mural – based on sketches by Stroeve’s mum – splashed over the ceiling. The menu downstairs is still a work in progress, but we do know it’ll feature traditional counter meals fuelled by native Australian ingredients – most sourced from NSW and many from First Nations suppliers.
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Locked in is a Balmain bug sub, a sandwich-as-meal filled with layers of the tasty crustacean and iceberg lettuce, plus gribiche (a herby sauce made with eggs and mustard) and green ant hot sauce. There’s also an Aussie burger with the lot, featuring both pickled beetroot and miso pineapple. A five-strong cocktail menu, made up of twists on classics, will change weekly depending on produce availability. The winner on the debut list is the decadent Frozen Irish Coffee, a lush blend of dulce de leche ice-cream, cream, single original coffee and Starward Whisky.
Upstairs will be split into three areas: a cosy-yet-refined restaurant dressed in waratah-maroons, a sun-drenched wraparound balcony and a greenery-filled courtyard. The food will be more substantial than the public bar, with planned (but yet to be finalised) share plates including Moonlight Flat rock oysters with rosella granita and a dry aged Whole Beast Butchery sirloin with a Waratah diane sauce and Epicurean Harvest greens.
The real show stopper will be dessert: the fairy bread ice-cream sandwich with caramelised native bee honey. The cocktail menu in this section will shift with the seasons, each time heroing produce from a different Australian ecosystem. The rainforest is up first, with ingredients hailing from Far North Queensland’s Kuranda Village and Atherton Tablelands. A Daintree cocktail showcases vanilla from the heritage-listed rainforest, alpine strawberries, apricot and house-made creaming soda.
Across the double-decker venue, there’s an all-NSW line-up of craft beers, including brews from Marrickville’s Wildflower and Bathurst’s Reckless Brewing, with more to be announced. The wine list will be equally local, and Stroeve is collaborating with childhood friend Sam Renzaglia, winemaker at Renzaglia Wines, on a Waratah white and red made from 100 per cent sustainably grown fruit.
While Stroeve’s mum contributed the floral artwork, his music-fanatic dad has been helping with the playlist. Like everything else at The Waratah, it’ll be mainly Australian – travelling from Aussie blues of the past 50 years to classic rock – promising an old-school good time.
The Waratah is due to open in November 2023 at 308–310 Liverpool Street, Darlinghurst.