Much has been said about the character of QT Sydney, that charming, eccentric hotel sitting side-to-side with the historic State Theatre. Just one brief ride in the elevator should be enough to tell you that this is a playful time capsule that exists in a lane entirely of its own, step out into the lobby and that uniqueness is only reiterated. Fashion and design are kept consistently funky, and this desire to be different of course spills over to the hotel’s two bars. Head past the lobby, up the stairs, and you’ll eventually reach Gowings Bar & Grill, QT’s primary restaurant and bar, but it doesn’t stop there – climb up another set of stairs and you’ll get to the second bar, Gilt Lounge.
When Gowings first opened there wasn’t much of a distinction between bars, but now Gilt has taken on a character of its own, whereas downstairs has that mature, slightly rustic feel, Gilt is built for sin and feels like something torn straight out of a modern fairy tale. Most of the bar is simmering in dim mood lighting with colourful bespoke furniture welcoming anyone who wants to stay close to the mixologists and marvel at the energy with which they have approached the reworked spring cocktail list. Groups would want to shoot off into the space behind the red curtains though, this is Gilt’s defining area: a boudoir with a pop sensibility, made of lounges and an eye-catching quintet of pillows that spell L.O.V.E.
On any other night the place is swarming with young travelers and social drinkers of the after-work variety. If you can manage to work your way onto the lounge, sit back and go through Gilt’s new cocktail list with a few tapas in hands. Otherwise, park yourself up at the bar and have a little chat with the bartenders – QT place emphasis on their personable service.
From what I’m told The Natural Hipster ($20) is proving to be the bar’s most popular new addition. True to it’s name, the focus is on a fresh, health-focused flavour that’s helped along by the herbaceous use of spirulina blended up with melon liqueur, aloe vera juice, lime juice, agave syrup, and Cazadores Blanco Tequila that’s been infused with Earl Grey tea. The look is as buoyant as the taste, nice and refreshing and perfectly suited to some late-afternoon drinking, tasting like a cold-pressed juice one would find in a Bondi cafe rather than a CBD cocktail.
In mentioning juice, there’s also a small section on the menu which offers a further four cocktails which are more liked spiked juices. The Apple ($11) is a simple blend of Jamesons and fresh apple juice, while the Pineapple ($15) uses Archie Rose Gin with pineapple juice, for example.
However, if you’re not off-shooting onto an alcoholic juice binge then continuing with the signatures is a good idea and will bring you to the likes of the milky, creamy Weis Daiquiri ($20), a fluffy cocktail made with Bacardi Carta Oro gold rum, macadamia oil, melted mango sorbet, lime, and light milk. It’s probably best to save this one for dessert.
Something more suitable for session drinking that’s fairly straight forward but still sophisticated enough to earn its spot as a signature is the Oaked Old Fashioned ($20), simply a very well made old fashioned that’s been aged in French oak barrels for 8 weeks, softening up the texture so its a bit creamier with that robust palate the classic is known for.
Three three cocktails mentioned above serve as a nice overview of the new menu, but a bar in Sydney in 2016 wouldn’t be a bar in Sydney in 2016 without at least one offering that mixes in a bit of theatrics. The flamboyance is best found in The Gilligan, a massive $45 cocktail that’s designed to share between at least 2, filling that necessary spot on the menu for a “cocktail that makes the people around you look over their shoulder and ask the waiter ‘I want what they are having'”. Yeah, this one is definitely an eye-catching beast, a drink that uses the super-premium Absolut Elyx, infused with pineapple and swished with Bicardi Fuego rum, absinth, pineapple vinegar, frosty fruits, and falernum syrup. This is all blended and served in one of Absolut Elyx’s copper pineapple sitting on a bed of dry ice. Expect a lot of rapid-flowing smoke steaming out from beneath the gorgeous drinking vessel and be prepared to wait for the obligatory social media post before diving head first into this party-starting concoction that doesn’t neglect the need for balance between the sweet, spicy notes that make this well worth it.
QT have certainly built Gilt into a fine cocktail bar. Throw in a refocused list of tapas style eats – like Cured Tuna Belly spoons and Rice Balls with 4 cheeses – and there’s a good time to be had here. Hotel bar’s have seen a massive improvement in the past few years, and Gilt is no exception.
Address: Level 2, 49 Market St, Sydney NSW
Contact: (02) 8262 0000
Hours: Wed-Fri 5pm-late; Sat 6pm-late
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