Martini Watch: Sepia, Sydney

201 Sussex Street, Sydney

The growth of small bars around Sydney can only be a good thing, taking drinking away from the tacky and beer soaked ‘hotels’, but there’s still a long way to go. At the moment these small bars in the CBD only number half a dozen and their popularity does not create for a relaxing time. You need to get there early to bag a space for your group and protect it as the place begins to heave. But it’s tolerable for a brief time with a decent drink in hand.

However, get to one of these places after 7pm and you question the effort to get in. And so I found myself outside Grandmas on a Wednesday night, packed to the rafters when all I wanted was a decent martini and a good conversation with a friend. There was no way I was going in.

Alternative arrangements had to be made. I’ve always had a thing for high-end hotel bars with their mix of decadence and at their best the observations of illicit rendezvous. Glass at Hilton doesn’t quite fit the bill and then Sepia came to mind as an ideal compromiseĀ  – sophisticated, chilled and without mobs of people. It’s not just for dinner, you know.

Nice leather lounges and a suprisingly warm welcome, you’re made to feel at home . The wine list is as expected, varied and of course the classics are well done.

The Martini is a thing of beauty:

Cold, brutal and big. It settles the nerves (!) and all is instantly good with the world, with no noisy crowds to speak of.

And what made Sepia stand out even more, were the absence of corners cut, or short-changing. Many a time I’ve been served a martini where the measures are rough and small, with the bar-tender hoping nothing will be said. Here I observed my martini being made and then judged not large enough, so additional was made, before it was served. Impressive.

A martini, should never be drunk on an empty stomach and so we ordered a plate of charcuterie:

It was not expensive and again suprisingly generous. The salamis and hams were bold and gratifying. I can’t resist a good cornichon and the plentiful supply of grissini (or breadsticks) rounded off a good nibbling plate.

So all in all a very pleasant impromptu drink. I’ve yet to eat at the restaurant itself, but a place that serves such a decent drink has already won me over.


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