How delicious are green ants? The native green tree ants, found usually in the forests of northern Australia, have made their way onto the dinner plates at Billy Kwong and the Noma Sydney pop-up restaurant, and now they’ll be dropped into your vodka soda when London’s Scout bar sets up permanently on the top floor of The Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills.
The critters have a lemony lemongrass-like flavour, says owner Matt Whiley. They’ll be infused into soda water then mixed with vodka. “When you get over the fact that it’s ants, it has this amazing lemon acidity,” he told Broadsheet.
Located in Hackney in north-east London, Scout has cut a fine reputation as a serious cocktail bar with a zero-waste philosophy. It’s ranked 28th on The World’s 50 Best Bars list and online food publication the Eater puts its success down to Whiley’s “sustainable creativity”.
Whiley’s cocktails start with fresh, raw produce. He then incorporates the whole fruit, vegetable or herb – stem, skin and all – into his concoctions.
On the Scout Surry Hills’ menu will be Whiley’s fermented fruit “wines” – made with seasonal fruit he acquires in bulk then ferments in oak barrels until it turns into a funky wine-like drink. There’ll be an orange “wine” of fermented orange, mandarin and cumquat, and a banana version, where bananas are roasted, juiced and fermented with wattleseed and macadamia (it tastes like a rich banana-chocolate wine).
Our humble Queensland-grown bananas excite Whiley because he’ll be able to use them in his drinks. In his London bar he only uses produce sourced from the British Isles. “I’m from the UK; bananas come from the other side of the world,” he says.
Whiley is no stranger to Sydney, having lived here during his former career as a professional cricketer, and in September he had a one-night bar pop-up at Bondi’s Icebergs Bar, which is also owned by The Dolphin’s proprietor Maurice Terzini.
“[The Icebergs x Scout event] was a huge success and … we’ve just been talking ever since. I’ve been in London for 11 years, and it can be a brutal city. Having a Sydney life near the beach was definitely the dream for me,” he says.
Whiley says a key difference between the London and Sydney bar scene is our preference for “vertical drinking”. London’s bars tend to be a sit-down affair, whereas Sydney locals like to stand and drink. Scout Surry Hills will reflect that, with a combination of seated and standing areas. The room will have a deep grey and green colour scheme to differentiate it from the light, bright interior design of The Dolphin.
Scout’s move to Sydney follows on the back of New York’s Employees Only opening a Sydney outpost in November. In the same month, New York’s Attaboy hosted a one-night-only pop-up at Icebergs.
Scout is slated to open on February 6, 2019 on level two of The Dolphin Hotel.