When it comes to house plant obsession, Solander Dining and Bar might just steal the green crown from Sydney’s most dedicated urban gardener. The ground floor bar of the Hilton’s West Hotel is a surprisingly lush, leafy escape from busy Sussex Street. If you head there around quitting time, the gush of air conditioning and soothing lighting will massage your stress receptors into a haze of relaxation.
Once ensconced in a window seat, where emerald green velvet lounges take the place of upright chairs – there’s room for two if you’re feeling cuddly – order a Rose Margarita. The unusual additions of violet syrup, rose water and activated charcoal mellow out the bite and bang of this classic cocktail, and create a deep ocean green colour that matches the fern forest in the glass atrium along the back wall.
While Solander also offers an impressive à la carte breakfast and lunch menu, it’s their dinners that best showcase the creative and experimental soul of the kitchen. Native ingredients and locally sourced botanicals are present in every course.
Rather than a simple sourdough, start with the housemaid banksia and acacia pot bread. It’s baked in its own little terracotta vessel and served with a sweet, syrupy infusion of black garlic butter. Save some of the dense loaf for mopping up sauces and marinades through the next few courses. The tender, charred, chilli-buttered green prawn entrée also shouldn’t be missed – a squeeze of seared lime really makes those crustaceans sing.
There’s plenty of options if you’re partial to a plant-based feast, which you’ll find in the section of the menu called ‘flora’. These are technically independent main meals, but the whole menu works well as an adventure in sharing. Mix and match mains like the pillowy gnocchi that are tossed with gently seared mushrooms and radicchio, with the melting Wagyu beef cheeks and Young Henrys beer-braised wallaby shanks.
If you are ordering solo and choose a main from the ‘fauna’ menu, keep in mind that these are served as solo proteins and you’ll need a side of roasted kipfler potatoes or broccoli peppered with pomegranate to make it a worthy dinner adversary.
Wine lovers who are keen on a local drop will be pleased to know the wine list goes heavy on Aussie labels, with just a few New Zealand sauvignon blancs, pinot noirs and a French rosé sneaking onto the menu. Once you polish off a bottle, finish with a refreshing spritz of gin, pomegranate rosé, molasses and soda.
And if you’re just visiting town for the night – or perhaps a local in need of a night of luxury – you can cradle your over-stuffed belly upstairs in a boutique room at West Hotel.