What do the explorer and botanist Joseph Banks and vermouth have in common? They’re both celebrated at Banksii Vermouth Bar & Bistro, Sydney’s first vermouth restaurant. If you’ve shied away from the new foreshore precinct, Barangaroo, it’s time to change course and promenade up the foreshore, leaving Darling Harbour and King Street wharf behind. Go hungry, go willing.
Take a seat on the harbourside terrace and let them coax you into an aperitif of rosé vermouth (blended specially for the restaurant by Australian boutique vermouth creators MaiDENii) tossed onto ice and garnished with a curl of grapefruit zest, then say ‘Bring me the $79 shared menu, please.’ Banksii’s executive chef, Hamish Ingham, shares Banks’ fascination with Australian botany: we eat the glazed roast duck with Davidson plums, soaked in red vermouth, which burst in a welter of sweetness on the tongue. Macadamia nuts replace chickpeas in a hummus-style dip decorated with fried sage and fat, tart currants. Greens are foraged and finger limes cosy up to Sydney rock oysters. Hamish’s wife and co-owner, Rebecca Lines, tips on its head the notion that vermouth was a ’70s mistake best left in the back of the cupboard. In a first for this writer, we pair courses with vermouths; in fact, it becomes a vermouth-off, with old-school heroes from France going head-to-head with vigorous competition from the US and MaiDENii, which shares Banksii’s love of Australian botanicals, bringing strawberry gum, wattle seed and sea parsley to the fortified wine.
‘The MaiDENii dry is my favourite Australian vermouth, and what I think people should be drinking right now,’ says our sommelier Kate, to light applause from our table. End the meal with a post-prandial prance up to the Barangaroo Reserve for expansive views of the harbour and plenty of picnic seats to recover on.
11/33 Barangaroo Avenue,
Tel. 02 8072 7037