Scout Sydney, the first international outpost by Matt Whiley’s Scout London brings innovation and locally sourced ingredients to the Sydney cocktail bar scene.
The Sydney small bar and cocktail scene may be relatively young in comparison to other parts of the world but there is no doubt that Sydney is a cocktail culture city capturing the interests of highly acclaimed international bars. 2018 saw the opening of Employees Only Sydney and in February 2019, Matt Whiley’s Scout London has opened its first international outpost, Scout Sydney.
Scout London is currently ranked 28th on The World’s 50 Best Bars list, a bar renowned for its innovative approach to cocktails, fermented fruit wines and an all-encompassing sustainable approach. According to Matt Whiley, Scout London and Scout Sydney are conceptually the same. “The bars have the same feeling when you’re inside but both look different. London is lighter and brighter, Sydney is dark and moody. Drink styles are totally different though due to produce and climate.”
Perched above the Dolphin Hotel in Surry Hills, the ambience is far removed from the pub vibe below. Once the eyes adjust to the dark tones with down lighting, other senses are ready to be awakened.
The sleek back bar may look a tad modest by some standards but the set up leaves the visitor in awe. The bar station is more akin to a kitchen with a design that has everything in full view: ice well, garnish station, sink, bitters and so on. The clever use of water circulating through the cleaning spaces is not only efficient but sends a message that this is a bar where sustainability is high on the agenda.
The ever-evolving cocktail list at Scout Sydney does not favour a particular spirit. It’s about seasonality, Australian native ingredients and a strong a focus on flavour. “We use locally sourced ingredients to make the tastiest drinks possible. We use distillation, fermentation and other techniques to create our style of Scout drinking,” says Whiley. His approach to drink development starts with ingredients. “I research the ingredients to create flavour maps and use other ingredients available at the time. Then the fun starts in tasting them!”
The six House Cocktails invite exploration. The Bush Berry Spritz is a taste of Australia, savoury and sweet with bush tomato vinegar, Scout Pet Nat with a hint of white cacao on the back palate in a tequila base. Thai influences are at play in the Haymayket with lime leaf, Thai basil, ginger, Sichuan, lemongrass and lime which are distilled and presented in a vodka-based cocktail. The kaffir lime leaf garnish brushed with a citrus powder adds an interactive element as guests are encouraged to lick the powder then take a sip of the drink for an explosion of familiar Thai flavours.
Avo on Toast is listed as “666 Butter, Avocado, Brioche’d Prosecco, Orange Wine, Isolated Lychee Tannin, Coffee Oil”, and no, it is not a breakfast dish. 666 Butter Vodka is fat-washed with avocado for texture. Toasted brioche is infused with Prosecco for three hours, strained and clarified to give a yeasty and buttery note. Orange wine is a nod to the orange juice in a traditional breakfast while the lychee stone is turned into a tincture that adds a bitter, dry and astringent note. Drops of coffee oil engage the olfactory senses and bind it all together.
Fermented fruit wines are a speciality at Scout Sydney with fermented fruit married with Australian flavours. The most notable on the list is the Melon Wine consisting of watermelon, cherry and Davidson plum ferment and green olives – a mix of ingredients that give the wine a distinctively delicious savoury and fruity note.
The No-Brainers lists a trio of Vodka Soda, Espresso Martini Highball and Whisky Highball but being Scout bar, all is not what it seems. Vodka Soda is elevated by marrying two native ingredients, strawberry gum with green ant soda, a collaboration with PS40 while the Whisky Highball gets a subtle smoke note from the burnt strawberry cream which intermingles with the coffee notes from the cascara soda.
If this sounds a little difficult to choose from, the drinks are pre-batched, ensuring the team delivers a service experience that puts the attention on the guests.
The experience of working with Australian native ingredients has left its mark on Matt Whiley. “Scout in Australia is the perfect place for the concept. There is so much being grown, from everyday fruits and vegetables to natives,” he explains. “I will take my time to learn a lot more about the native ingredients and where they come from. I hope to share some more ideas soon on some upcoming drinks.”
Scout Sydney is open Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm.
Click through the following pages to view images of the venue and a selection of the cocktails.