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

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Contents -

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.

From top: Mike Baker and Daniel Ma­son, a view of the hand­some bar, and the black for­est dessert.

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