Has anyone (not on an away-from-home work conference) ever wilfully gone for a drink in a hotel bar? Brightly lit, beige dominated, uptight, boring ... they're not exactly a recipe for a crazy evening of intoxicated escapades.
The owners of the new QT Hotel hope to prove the hotel bar naysayers wrong. The retail industry may be in distress, but that hasn't stopped them investing $69 million into the redevelopment of the old Gowing Bros buildings, the former department store that went into receivership in 2006. Myer and David Jones may be suffering from ever-quietening cash registers just around the corner, but on the QT, the developers hope the flash hotel and adjoining Gowings Bar and Grill make loud noises in the dining scene.
Certainly the décor of the building is impressive. The art deco entrance, tucked next door to the State Theatre, leads to a 1920s-style café and barber shop. A lift ride up one floor into a dark hotel lobby filled with leather armchairs and unnerving mannequins, leading into Gowings' chrome and wood opulence. Walls of wine bottles, a lush lounge, an open kitchen … the money spent on the demolition also clearly went on the interior design.
The impressive-sounding "creative food director" Robert Marchetti, formerly of Icebergs and North Bondi Italian, has developed a menu around a wood-fired oven selection of mussels, pork chops, founders, scallops or a Friday-only pinot and suckling pig (lunch only, $46). But the choicer picks are the crispy duck with spiced skin on a bed of mash and steamed greens ($44) or yellowfin tuna rubbed in fennel ($44). For dessert, the double-baked dark choc crème brulee with marinated cherries ($14) is a Middle Eastern-style curveball in its presentation.
There are a lot of ideas and personality poured into this Gowings glass, to the point were it's overflowing with little corners to investigate and morsels to taste. Over stimulation is never a bad thing, and anyway, they've catered for the more chilled-out drinker with a cocktail lounge upstairs.
It certainly has injected some oomph into that usual sterile stereotype of what a bar or restaurant attached to a hotel should be, as if the owners actually want their guests to have fun. One can only imagine what the rooms look like, before and after a night here.