The jewel in Barangaroo's ever-growing crown, Barangaroo House is made up of three levels — we reviewed them all.
Navigating the monstrous Barangaroo House is not an easy feat. Should you head straight to the ground floor or climb to level one? Or two? What occasion befits what level? Where can you eat, drink and find the sea urchin martini? Stress not. We've done the hard yards for you — we've reviewed all three levels. So read below, then negotiate the building with ease.
GROUND FLOOR: HOUSE BAR
On the bottom floor is House Bar. Set just above street level and in prime waterfront position, it's the most approachable of the three outlets. Serving tap beer, cocktails and wine, it's all bar service and can get four- or five-deep on a busy night.
It's aimed at, and well suited to, after-work drinkers with a mix of high communal tables and stools and some lower tables – though the design is fairly neutral.
The menu hero here is rotisserie meat, which we suspect is well suited to a lunch offering, coming as a wrap or a house plate with a choice of chips or salad. The chicken with a fennel and orange salad comes out in a flash on an enamel plate and while tender, is served room temperature and although the salad nicely dressed, is a bit ho-hum for $17. The bucket of prawns with a warm brown roll is more on the money, served whole to peel yourself, they're super fresh and plump. A Tommy's margarita ($18) is nicely made and a glass of dry Domaine de Triennes rosè ($12) hits the spot after a day in the office.
What's the deal? The most approachable level. Bar service. Rotisserie meat and tap beer.
LEVEL 1: BEA
The signature restaurant is Bea (pronounced bee), and is overseen by restaurateur Matt Moran but under the creative development of ex-Vue de Monde chef Cory Campbell. On the menu, expect contemporary Australian fare with native elements. Native food is rarely done well (or done at all) so it's nice to see some big names getting behind it.
A collaboration between leading hospitality architects H&E and interior design firm Studio Etic, Barangaroo House has lots of successful aesthetic elements; but Bea is the most beautiful — with an angular, detailed ceiling, tile details, copper, timber, lovely leather clad booths and sculptural orb lighting features.
The food is equally considered in terms of design. It's restrained and stylised — a mix of the Moran influence and Campbell's time at restaurants like Noma. It's effective; the food is simple and confident. Take the carrots ($12): burnished to sweetness in the woofired oven and served whole with a few thin slices of fennel. A marron gratin ($48) is a beautiful looking and tasting dish, split down the centre and topped with a mustard foam and spiced butter. Also successful is the charred and butterflied spatchcock ($48) with a sweet and sticky native riberry glaze. Another cracker was the dessert of lime custard with toffee crunch, zest and sour cream ($19).
The menu is large and there are some great examples of smart and delicious cooking; however, some dishes feel incomplete or overthought — like the of kingfish with saltbush and cucumber ($38), which doesn't quite work texturally.
One reason to come here is the wine list. Curated by Matt Dunne, it's full of absolute crackers, served in pleasing Riedel glassware – like the Yabby Lake chardy ($22). It's one of the better lists in town and is served by confident sommeliers. Similarly, the food by informed wait staff. The service element is a key link in the whole experience starting with a bubbly greeting from the host desk.
Time will tell if the multifarious House will sustain its appeal beyond the Moran hype, but we think with a little simplification, it will be a remain a popular addition to that end of town.
What's the deal? The signature restaurant. Make a reservation. Enjoy the extensive wine list.
When is it open? Mon–Sun 12pm–3pm, 5.30pm–midnight. Our rating: 4/5
LEVEL 2: SMOKE
Smoke is at the top of the building.
Sydney is fairly low in this sector for a waterside city with our climate, so it's great to see another one on the books. Although word has definitely got around, and on the nights we visited there weren't many spare seats among the well-heeled crowd.
The first and most pleasing element is the dominance of a great big timber deck, with a good amount of indoor and outdoor greenery. The view is beautiful and an ideal time to come is as the sun is setting (just remember your sunnies) – to watch the sky turn from dusk to dark, dotted with city lights. Our only criticism is the height of much of the outdoor furniture means only some get the best of the view.
Smoke is pretty sexy business, the music is well curated and it is a step up, both in price, design and service from the House Bar. It's nice to be greeted and seated at a bar, and we wish more places would do it.
The food direction here is unsurprisingly 'smoked' but it plays a fairly subtle role in the menu of about 14 share style plates as well as a charcuterie and caviar section. The wines by the glass are impressive, like an excellent Falmet champagne ($30), or a stunning Australian Inkwell Primitvo ($14) from the McLaren Vale.
Snacks like delicious savoury mushroom doughnuts ($10), eggplant skewers with truffle ($16) and barramundi sliders ($14) are all winners. Cocktails are a little more experimental, with riffs on classics like the Mountain Martini ($23) with dry vermouth torched onion and sea urchin brine and a grilled pineapple daiquiri ($21).
Smoke is a great hero bar for Barangaroo, with all the right elements and snappy food and booze, hopefully igniting a trend for more bars closer to the sky.
One thing is clear, the whole development can be summarised in one word: ambitious. It has all the elements of talented designers, sommeliers and chefs and enormous patronage capacity as well as a towering futuristic structural dominance.
What's the deal? Head in early. Order the sea urchin martini. And snacks.
When is it open? Mon–Wed 3pm–midnight, Thu–Sun 12pm–midnight. Our rating: 4/5