Yesterday, Applejack Hospitality’s opened the doors to its latest venue, Rafi, for the first time.

On Wednesday night Applejack Co-owner, Hamish Watts, introduced the restaurant and bar to trade partners and media, explaining that it is something of a milestone venue for the group.

“Applejack, the company that runs this beautiful venue – we’ve been going for 11 years come November. We’ve launched 11 projects in 11 years, some big, some teeny tiny, but all with their own unique personality and take on hospitality,” Watts said.

Fellow Applejack Co-owner, Ben Carroll, took the time to thank those people who had supported the organisation from the beginning.

“A big shout out to all the partners and suppliers. Some of them have been with us the whole 11 years from when we had the dream of turning this little hardware store into a restaurant all those years ago [Bondi Hardware, now sold],” Carroll said.

The drinks menu has been developed by Applejack Group Bars Manager, Lachy Sturrock; Group Sommelier, Amandine Rouviere; and Rafi Bars Manager, Cameron Freno.

Cocktails at the venue have been created to reduce waste wherever possible, all while ‘executing delicious and unique drinks.’

Carroll stated that his own experience in North Sydney had inspired him to open the venue.

“Born and bred in the North, North Sydney was where I fell in love with Hospitality, so the area has special significance for me. With RAFI we want to put North Sydney back on the centre stage, with a world class restaurant in a setting to match,” Carroll said

“The honesty and passion of our people at Applejack is all about connection, and we want to make this venue a place where visitors, corporates and the local community can come together and feel that connection in a warm and welcoming space.”

Photo credit: Steven Woodburn

The Shout reached out to Sturrock to hear more about how the venue’s concept was developed.

“The concept behind Rafi’s F&B offering is all about sustainability and focusing on seasonal produce. Once we had firmed up this concept, the first thing to do was to sit down with both Cam (Rafi Bar Manager) and Amandine (Applejack Group Sommelier) to work out how we could execute this across our entire drinks offering,” Sturrock said.

“From a wine perspective, we decided to champion wines from local producers – especially in our wines by the glass. We also looked for wine producers with a key focus on sustainable practices and organic farming, both local and abroad. 

“For the cocktail program, we wanted to create a very fruit driven and seasonal list, whilst also utlising as much of the produce as possible,” Sturrock continued.

“As an example, one of our cocktails called ‘Riff Raff’ – where we take unwanted mint leaves and stems from our other Applejack venues, along with lime juice and husks to make a clarified cordial. Over the years of working in bars, both myself and Cam noticed one of the key ingredients behind a bar that is wasted is mint, so we looked to utilise this in a modern way for the opening list, whilst reducing overall wastage across our group.”

The DIY cocktail concept is called ‘shrub your way’ and presents the bar’s seasonal shrub (currently blood orange, lemon myrtle and upcycled wine), served with the guest’s choice of spirit base, ice/spritz and mixer.

In the menu, Freno commented that “by choosing seasonal fruits, we have contributed to relieving demand on Australian farmers, receiving optimal quality of produce, minimizing over-supply in the market as well as utilizing ‘imperfect picks’, partnering with local fruit vendors.”

“Working with our neighbouring Applejack venues, we can give another life to some produce otherwise destined for the bin, by implementing modern sustainable techniques throughout the menu, and creating riffs on a few of the world’s best classic cocktails,” Freno continued.

Alongside this DIY shrub are another six bespoke drinks, including the ‘#7’ – a combination of mezcal bourbon, and Rafi’s ‘off-cut’ coffee liqueurs. There’s also selection of local beers and wines on offer, including the likes of Stone & Wood, Young Henrys and Freshwater breweries.

Wines will be showcased in a large glass wine store, with the wider décor created by design firm, Luchetti Krelle, a long-time collaboration with Applejack. The brief for this venue was ‘no two spaces the same’ with a layered approach encouraged. For Rafi’s bar, a custom made, geometric island bartop was created.

Photo credit: Steven Woodburn

Stuart Krelle comments: “We set out to create a space that was youthful and playful. Drawing inspiration from exuberant colours and patterns, our design reflects Applejack’s energy and warmth. The hope is that you have fun.”

Carroll explained the instructions given to the design studio.

“We gave them a really loose brief, and it was to have fun. We wanted to present something to North Sydney that would blow the socks off anybody in the city. We wanted to put something on the world stage, and they absolutely delivered,” Carroll said.

“We’ve used Luchetti [Krelle] several times, and they keep on delivering, proving why they are at the top of the game in hospitality design.”

The rest of the venue comprises of a private dining room, an alfresco glasshouse space and a tree-lined terrace. The Chef’s Kitchen will be open for exclusive events and bespoke dining experiences. The food offering itself has been overseen by Executive Head Chef Matias Cilloniz, and includes seasonal vegetables and sustainably sourced seafood.

Rafi is open from Monday to Saturday from 12pm to midnight. The venue is located at 99 Mount St, North Sydney.

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