Sydney got a little taster of the antics up Matt Whiley's sleeve when he opened up a local offshoot of London original Scout above the Dolphin Hotel in 2019 – but his new opening is even more ambitious. Yes, that's a big call when his last (much-lauded) booze den served house-made wines made of banana skin and an avo on toast cocktail. Yes, we stand by it.
For the opening of Re-, a sustainability-focused cocktail bar in the up-and-coming South Eveleigh precinct, Whiley has again joined forces with Maurice Terzini (Icebergs Dining Room & Bar; the Dolphin). It's set to be the first permanent waste-free bar in the world, with a through-line of ethical consumption threaded through the entire venue: from its drinks to its décor to its upcycled interiors; from the reclaimed Maison Balzac glasses to the packaging of stock to the reupholstered furniture.
Not that Whiley's intention is to be preachy. "Coming to Re- should just feel like fun," he says.
"We want you to hang out, bring your mates, and leave a little bit merrier when you arrived. It just so happens that everything you touch, feel or drink, we've saved or recycled."
Drawing from his expertise at Scout and beyond, Whiley is putting forward an accessible, yet inventive cocktail menu at Re-. At its heart are twelve cocktails, including highballs, spritzes and riffs on classic drinks, all of which are made using diverted and reclaimed produce: 'ugly' fruit, vegetables, herbs and liqueurs. Try a Martini with white truffle and olive leaf, or a Sbagliato with a touch of rhubarb, or the Re- punch, which smashes together plums and peaches destined for compost in a fruity, tingly infusion.
In the alfresco terrace space, you can try drinks from the Ketel One Botanical range, which also creates drinks with surplus produce, diverting waste and showcasing the innovative techniques. Inside, there are Yullis beer on tap, Wildflower cans kept chilled, and Champagne and Latta Vino rosé, orange and red wines – the latter served from giant, 10-litre goon bags in a bid to reduce wastage.
If you thumb past the classics, you'll find yourself in a part of the drinks menu headed 'Re-search'. This is where Whiley's bar team flexes its creative muscle. For example, the "Mars" cocktail draws inspiration from the intergalactic: it features the elements of silicon, magnesium and iron, but in the form of (earthly) foods.
"We don't want [Re-] to carry the negative connotation of 'saving' something from the bin," says Whiley. "We want to champion the fact that we're giving something new life."
And produce isn't the only thing they're giving new life. Milk bottles are the foundation of benchtops, and tables and bars are made from Re-Plas recycled bottles and tupperware. The banquettes are clothed in pineapple-leaf fibre, and the light fittings and wine coolers are made from new age mycelium fungus material. You're surrounded by pieces taken from the natural world, but allowed to retain their rawness, their rough natural selves. Much of the floor is made from recycled car tyres, and the stairs are all recycled plastic bags. A piece of art on the wall is made from charcoal from the 2019-20 bushfires.
Re- might be billed as a no-waste bar, Whiley sees the project as a journey more than a final entirely virtuous destination.
"We want to educate as we go – ourselves and others," says Whiley. "We want to be able to talk about what we're doing really well at and the stuff that we're failing at, as well. Like, when we get a delivery in plastic packaging, we want to talk about the fact we've had to put something in landfill – and the reason why, and how we can do better."
It's estimated that five million tonnes of food ends up in landfill annually, cast aside and wasted – when it could otherwise be reused, repurposed and recycled in the manner Re- hopes to champion. Not only within its own walls, but in the wider industry, too.
"We wanted to break down the barrier of what food waste is..." says Whiley. "It's not just what you put in the bin at home. It's a systemic problem. It's a problem for all of us. Not just one person. Not just one bar in Eveleigh. It's a problem for humanity."
Visit Re- at 2 Locomotive Street, South Eveleigh.