Henry Sugar Bar
298 Rathdowne St, Carlton North VIC 3054
03 9448 8196
There are few venues where the quality of the drinks and the offerings from the kitchen are perfectly harmonised. Carlton’s newest wine and cocktail bar, Henry Sugar, boasts beverage and food offerings that are equally inventive, considered and, most importantly, delicious.
The intimate venue located on Rathdown Street, Henry Sugar, is the first venture from Kiwi chef, Mike Baker and Melbourne bartender, Dan Mason. Dan has done the rounds in Melbourne’s cocktail scene, having worked at Cookie, Toff in Town and most recently at Joe Taylor.
Before moving to Melbourne, Mike spent two and a half years at Alkimia, a Michelin-starred restaurant in Barcelona and also worked as a pastry chef at El Celler De Can Roca, a regional restaurant in Spain that is currently ranked second in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants. Upon arriving in Melbourne, Mike took the reigns as pastry chef at Hell of the North where Melbourne’s northside foodies were quickly won over by his attention to detail and impressive desserts.
When concocting a name for their venue, the pair chose Henry Sugar after the short story by Roald Dahl. The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar tells the journey of a man who learns to see without eyes for his own greed, before taking a more altruistic route in life. Dan and Mike’s culinary creations allow you to see without eyes, but the offerings are indeed beautiful, each dish captures the senses of taste, texture and smell. Even the menus are embossed with a few words in braille.
Watching Dan and Mike work together, it’s hard to believe that they only met a couple of years ago. Mike was looking for a partner to start a dessert and cocktail bar when a friend introduced him to Dan. The pair shared a background in design as well as a drive to experiment and to extract the best qualities from every ingredient.
It’s no surprise then that the menu is a carefully curated selection of dishes, wines, aperitifs and cocktails. Start with an aperitif cocktail on top or the house spritz (pay attention to the olive, you’ll be pleasantly surprised). The menu offerings are designed to share, so make sure you order a little bit of everything. If you need something to nibble on while you contemplate your choices, try the lentil parfait served with housemade brioche, or tartare of tofu with avocado, shiso and yuzu served with black sesame puff.
The seasonal offerings vary, but you can expect to find dishes like octopus, steamed for an incredibly tender texture before being chargrilled for extra flavour and colour. Move on to mains where you’ll find offerings that include pumpkin, roasted then slightly dehydrated for intense flavour and served with sesame and black rice. Smoked snapper is another popular option, served with beetroot remoulade. There are classics too, a simple serving of tender braised lamb is paired with carrots and hazelnuts.
Save room for dessert – Mike’s pastry and dessert background shines brightly here. Try the impossibly light coconut custard with granita, mirin and citrus sorbet; or the black forest – a blown sugar cherry shell atop a cherry liqueur soaked almond sponge, covered in chocoate mousse. While classics like the creme brulee don’t need a description, it’s difficult to comprehend how perfectly silky Henry Sugar Bar’s version is.
For those who find choosing too challenging, opt for the set menu – you won’t be disappointed.
For each and every course you’ll find the perfect pairing from Dan’s selection of drinks. The wine aficionados will be immediately impressed by the unusual and delicious collection of vinos, while whisky-lovers will be drawn to the selection of rare offerings. The spirit list boasts a range of Australian craft spirits and intriguing brews. Take your time when considering the cocktail list as there are plenty of options, although it’s hard to go wrong with the gin fizz topped with raspberry and lemon myrtle. If you prefer something less boozy, Dan has created a range of housemade sodas with natural fermentation, think tonka cola or rhubarb soda.
On Saturdays, you’ll find brunch with a Michelin-starred twist; charcoal grilled octopus with morcilla and whipped potato with paprika, topped with a perfectly poached egg, while other savoury options house smoked ocean trout with scrambled egg and bitter leaves. Your breakfast favourites are also available, there’s a crisp potato rosti topped with avocado, a poached egg and smooth hollandaise, while those with a sweet tooth can indulge in pancakes with coconut, caramelised lychee and rhubarb.
The brunch drinks list carries the same considered approach to their evening menu; house fermented non-alcoholic sodas, a tight wine list of minimal intervention wines, craft beers on tap, inventive original cocktails, plus coffee supplied by the legends at Small Batch based in North Melbourne.
The intimate venue sits well in Rathdowne Village, welcoming diners for long, luxurious dinners, quick bites to eat or a quick drink – and on Saturday your new go-to for a proseccy-breaky.