When it was built in 1929, Haymarket’s Hotel Morris was Sydney’s tallest hotel. Nearly a century later, the building is surrounded by skyscrapers but its art deco charm is as strong as ever. A recent restoration includes 82 Italian-inspired rooms, and Bar Morris – a restaurant serving decadent plates by a chef with experience in Michelin-starred restaurants in Milan and England.
“The brief was Italian but fun and dynamic,” head chef Rosy Scatigna (ex-Shell House, Aria, Hand & Flowers (UK)) tells Broadsheet. “It’s food that comes from the heart. If I had a dinner party, these are the dishes I would cook.”
The origins of many Bar Morris dishes lie in Italy, particularly Puglia, the southern region where Scatigna grew up. She’s enlivened regional classics with two of her favourite elements: citrus and spice.
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Star of the starters is the madeleine, a small shell-shaped sponge cake hailing from north-east France. Scatigna brings a savoury take, lacing the batter with parmesan and filling the cake with a fine slice of guanciale, whipped ‘nduja, aioli and preserved lemon.
Meanwhile, the pick of the carb-y mains is the golden risotto. There’s pumpkin, capers and plenty of parmesan, plus cured and marinated prawns on top, and a vinegar reduction to finish.
“People expect risotto to be creamy, but for me the acidic element is very important,” says Scatigna.
The larger mains take a meaty turn with the spatchcock alla diavola – or “devil’s spatchcock”. “[It’s] treated like Peking duck,” Scatigna says. “Marinated in brine, grilled then fried, so it’s crunchy on the outside but juicy on the inside.” An onion puree forms a comforting base, while the addition of shishito peppers – some mild and some scarily spicy – “turns the dish into a game of Russian roulette”.
General manager Atsuko Asano’s wine list focuses on Italian and Australian varietals. Among her favourites are Elisabetta Foradori’s manzoni bianco, pinot grigio and teroldego, from the Trentino region in Italy’s far north. “She has a cult following,” says Asano. “I first tried her wines in a wine bar in South Yarra, and thought, ‘One day I’m going to put that on a wine list’.”
The cocktail list was developed in consultation with Tom Bulmer (The Social Spirits). A standout is the Ocean’s Depth Martini, which brings together Seven Seasons green ant gin, dry vermouth, brine and Sicilian olives. Asano also highlights the lengthy amaro list; the bitter liqueur reminds her of lazy Sunday afternoons in Italian villages.
Bar Morris’s luxe dishes and drinks are aptly backdropped by opulent design choices, brought together by Squad Ink, Fellow Hospitality and Tom Mark Henry. There’s space for 40 across velvet-backed banquettes, leather-topped bar stools and seats surrounding marble tables, with crystal chandeliers overhead and warm, red lighting. Funk and soul beats provide the soundtrack.
Upstairs, the beautiful hotel rooms follow suit. Each has its own sparkling chandelier, as well as custom furniture featuring a mix of wood, marble, brass and amber onyx. Artworks by local creatives have been both commissioned and collected specifically for this project.
Hotel Morris is the second in Australia’s Accor’s Handwritten Collection, with Perth’s Wonil Hotel opening earlier this year. “Each has a different story,” says Asano. “Here, the focus is on Italian influences, as well as hosting our guests with a personal touch.”
Hotel and Bar Morris
412 Pitt Street, Haymarket
(02) 8224 5777
Bar Morris Hours:
Mon 6.30am–10am, 11am–2pm
Tue to Fri 6.30am–10am, 11am–2pm, 5.30pm–10pm
Sat 7am–10.30am, 11am–2pm, 5.30pm–10pm