Although it’s a Sydney institution brimming with old-world charm, the Queen Victoria Building has laid dormant after dark for much of recent memory. Until now.
In mid March, late-night champagne parlour and bar Reign opened in the grand level-one space once occupied by the ABC, and now its sister venue, Esquire Drink + Dine, has slid into level two to add to the invigoration of the CBD retail complex’s after-dark scene.
It’s an extremely handsome space. The moody supper club feels very New York and uses clever lighting to accentuate the building’s Romanesque revival architecture. Matthew Beaumont, the group general manager of beverage at Trippas White Group (also behind 360 Bar and Dining and the Botanic Gardens Restaurant) says it’s a beautiful space for long business lunches but also – and importantly – late-night snacking and drinking.
“With the State Theatre so close to us we’ll capture some of those people looking for somewhere to grab a late-night meal or even just another place to have a drink,” says Beaumont.
And drink late they can: Esquire closes at 2am Thursday to Sunday nights.
The bar stocks more than 180 local and international whiskies and 200 wines – 60 by the glass and half-bottle carafe. Like at Reign, sommelier Fabio Nistrio (ex-Sokyo) has assembled the list and incorporated Coravin technology to preserve open bottles of wine longer (they can be poured without removing the cork), meaning more bottles can be opened.
The cocktail list is by David Green (previously Ovolo’s Alibi and Zephyr Bar at the Hyatt Regency) and it echoes the produce featured on the food menu. “Anything the kitchen uses that has potential waste, we’re going to look at how we can re-use that in some shape, form or fashion in the drink menu,” says Beaumont.
For fans of an Old Fashioned, get the Sheep in Wolves Clothing. It’s made with duck-fat-infused spiced rum, barley, pandan syrup and bitters, and is rich in texture and taste. “It lingers; you can feel it going down the back of your throat. It’s amazing,” he says.
Seasonal produce informs Damien Worthington’s menu of modern-Australian dishes. The pork jowl schnitzel is cooked for eight hours (Beaumont’s pick of the menu) and there’s a whole roast chicken for two served over two courses (a confit of legs and salad is the entrée, and a side of potato gratin comes with the main). The seared steak tartare with beetroot and fresh horseradish melts in your mouth.
If you’re not in the mood to make decisions, the tasting menu ($65) includes 9 dishes: barbeque octopus with chorizo, potato, cucumber and saffron; crumbed sweetbreads with lemon, cauliflower, brown butter and hazelnut; 350 grams of Scotch fillet; plus your pick of dessert. We’ve got our eye on the beetroot cake with crème fraiche ice-cream, carrot curd and walnuts.
For something more casual, hit up Esquire’s bar menu. There’s a Wagyu cheese burger, antipasti for two and a Gruyere de comté jaffle – the ultimate midnight snack.
Esquire Drink + Dine
Level Two, Queen Victoria Building, 455 George Street, Sydney, Market Street entrance
Mon to Wed 12pm–12am
Thu to Sun 12pm–2am
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on April 9, 2019. Menu items may have changed since publication.