Bar-restaurant hybrid Henry Sugar.
Though the food is a bit finicky, the on-trend drinks are bound to have patrons coming back for their Sugar hit at this bar-restaurant hybrid
HENRY SUGAR: REVIEWED BY DAN STOCK
IT’S hard not to like a bar that shares a name with Roald Dahl’s story of a card-playing cad who uses yogic powers to cheat casinos in order to fund orphanages – even if it does replace the north’s best spot for a pisco sour (the late, lamented Piqueos).
And there’s lots to like at Henry Sugar, an “Is it a bar? Is it a restaurant?” addition to leafy Rathdowne Village. Free sparkling water, for instance, and an understatedly handsome fit-out that takes the bare-bricked, copperhighlighted bones and extends the central bar into more of a feature.
Co-owner Daniel Mason (ex-cookie) has put together a so-hot-right-now offering of drinks, from naturally fermented house-made sodas through to white negronis on tap. The short, Australian-leaning wine list keeps its focus on non-interventionist drops (of course), while the excellent Footscray Ale is one of five beers on tap.
In the kitchen is chef Mike Baker, who’s come from Hell of the North but has worked in fancy European kitchens, which perhaps explains the somewhat earnest menu that includes snacks, desserts and a few precious elements.
Crunchy fried pierogi pillows filled with confit duck nestle up to sour cream, while sharp rhubarb compote provides an excellent foil to a jar of rich kangaroo rillettes.
The chargrill gets a workout on vegetables – broccoli with almonds, leeks with curd – as well as octopus that, though tasty, was fussy with daubs and drizzles.
A black forest dessert, complete with sugar-blown cherry on top, is an impressive, if contrived, full-stop. And a parmesan ice cream needs a saltier personality to properly shine.
While the menu could loosen up – and service could tighten – with tweaks, Henry Sugar will hit the sweet spot.