It was a glorious day when Guangzhou cocktail bar Hope & Sesame decided to fly their team to Sydney, so tease us with a taste of their innovative cocktails, with flavours derived from cooking techniques. The drinks were paired with a three-course native Australian lunch, courtesy of Mode Kitchen & Bar.
Let me tell you – this meal got straight down to it, so I will too.
We started off with some gin and tonics. Served with a sliver of lemon and some mammoth black peppercorns, I knew it was going to be something special. The gin was from local distiller (and a personal favourite of mine) Archie Rose, and it was paired with the Dirty Tonic by Strangelove, made with rosemary, sea salt, and tree back. It didn’t fail to deliver the spiciness promised on the label.
Once the last few had arrived, the first course was promptly dished up.
Diced Yamba king prawns served with green tomatoes and muntires berries. Firmly ignoring the fact that the prawn meat was raw, I assembled a mouthful on the accompanying crispbread. The flavour was mild and green. The creaminess begged for the freshness of the accompanying cocktail – the ‘Garden Highball’. While I’m not entirely sure I liked it, I have to concede that the construction of this drink was remarkable. It looked like a lemon lime and bitters. Made using Chivas 12 year, Seedlip Garden 108 (a non-alcoholic liqueur made from peas), and a tomato and basil soda, it has all the savour of a bloody mary, with all the freshness of a soft drink.
Next up, we had wood-roasted Moreton Bay bug. The flesh was dreamy-creamy, drizzled in some kind of buttery sauce with a slight bitterness. The kelp and karkalla (a juicy native succulent) provided contrasting salt and crunch. The accompanying cocktail was their take on a piña colada. Made with clarified pineapple and lemon juice, homemade re-distilled chai liqueur, and fresh smashed basil. Much like the Garden Highball, it was a seriously tasty, lighter version.
Next up we had Tasmanian pepper crust Kangaroo loin and wilted Warrigal greens. The savoury fragrance of the gamey meat was indomitable, and partnered perfectly with the accompanying beet-based cocktail. The addition of raspberry sweetened the drink just enough, and the single ice cube was coated in aromatic orange zest and cocoa butter to stop the ice melting too fast – I recommend peeling off the cocoa and letting it melt on your tongue.
Dessert was crumble, made with applebush, white chocolate and macadamia. The familiar flavours evoking a nostalgia for childhood summers near the ocean – though the tangy passionfruit cocktail was definitely a new addition. The gleaming yellow drink was made with Flor de Cana 4 years, and Sanya Yellow Chilli that had been twice distilled to keep the flavour without the burn.
Liv S. is a creature of warm weather and negronis. Her interests include long lunches, trying new things, and triple utterances. Follow her frolics on @callmememphisjones, or tenderlcreative.com.au