Classy drinks with a strong European accent are hiding on the first floor of the Hellenic Club
When you want elegant Greek food in the city you go to Alpha. If you want fun and fancy drinks and a two-person moussaka, then you need to slip up the stairway off to one side of the restaurant and head up to Beta, the cocktail bar they’ve opened upstairs.
It’s a slightly odd space, all soaring ceilings and chipped brick walls. It almost feels like you’re in a secret enclave, keeping your carousing hidden from the fun police, who might want to get between you and the boozy citrus wave of the Avra – a restrained mix of Canadian Club rye with blood orange, sweet vermouth and bitters that is as balanced as a seasoned tightrope walker.
If Disney princesses drank cocktails the Tartara would be top of their lists – and not just because it comes in a coupe with a thick marble stem like some sort of enchanted chalice. They mix chamomile syrup, lemon juice and a little bitter herbal kick from Tonka beans (we promise they’re not toxic in these quantities) with vodka, and then add a statement cap of Cointreau foam. The result is as light and fluffy as a cloud and as fragrant as a citrus orchard in bloom.
Maybe you have no time for frippery when it comes to drinks; so just order an ouzo and be done with it. You’ll feel like a king with a gold trimmed glass of aniseed liquor in your hand, and like a wizard when you add water or ice and watch your drink turn a milky blue.
We're suprised how few Greek wines are on offer. There’re four on the list at our count and none of those come by the glass. Opt instead for a bottle of Blue Mak, Fix Hellas or White Donkey beer for Mediterranean flavours.
You might only be here for a drink but you’ll probably change your mind when you see a charred, smoky leg of octopus sail past with an earthy split pea dip and a wedge of orange to squeeze over the top. Even if you’re full, it’s worth decorating your table with a bowl of the crisp-but-not-tooth-endangering fried chickpeas with chilli and oregano.
At the total other end of the scale, there is no question the moussaka is a two-person job. The round base of an eggplant stuffed with tender ribbons of lamb, capped with a baked yoghurt that tastes like a golden cheese soufflé and drenched in a rich tomato sauce will cost you $28, which when halved makes for a very cheap dinner in fancy digs.
Beta is definitely going for that up-market, inner city vibe. They run a tight ship with table service from the willowy staff; crowd-pleasing pop on the speakers suspended from the ceiling; and snacks that are punching well above their weight thanks to the impressive kitchen downstairs. It’s not exactly a destination bar, but for a classy hideout it’s on the money.
|Venue name:||Beta Bar||Contact:|
Lvl 1, 238 Castlereagh St
|Opening hours:||Wed, Thu, Sat 5pm-late; Fri noon-late|