by Suzan Ryan: editor – bars&clubs
A slice of Scandinavia has appeared in Sydney’s Chinatown district of Haymarket with the opening of The Bear bar and restaurant.
The pocket-sized venue is run by owner Andy Curtis and partner Grace Gao and is licensed for 50 people. Andy and Grace are both from a hospitality background and Andy owned London bar, Nordic, for 10 years – hence the Scandinavian theme. “Well, it’s more of a winter lodge theme,” says Andy.
“Think Christmas trees and Swedish meatballs, log cabins and sexy fondue and that you are in a small but perfectly formed Bear.” That’s right, bears are everywhere. There’s a bear on the menu, painted on the walls, in cute and kitsch frames, and even a plush costume bear’s head for outgoing guests to don for selfies.
The layout is intimate and cosy: walk in the red-painted door from the laneway access (the door is guarded by a lit Christmas tree) into the bar area that seats 25, and you are greeted by deep red walls and visions of a crackling log fire projected from the back bar to the facing wall, creating an intimate and individual atmosphere.
The second room is just off the bar and features a darker and slightly more spacious area that allows private conversation and larger tables for groups. Andy says making guests feel welcome in a small space is important, as is his guests feeling like they have discovered a new local bar that is just for them.
“Christmas trees feature heavily – they never come down. It throws people off a bit,” says Andy. “I think the most important thing is to keep it fun and fresh.
“I want people to come in and discover the touches that matter by themselves and then come in a week later and see changes.” [continues below]
The Bear specialises in gourmet hot dogs such as the Snoop Dog (made with European sausage, mash potato, crispy onion and Dutch curry ketchup), The Continental and the delightfully tongue-in-cheek Sure Coronary, as well as pizza, meatballs and even fruit with butterscotch fondue.
The bar stocks an interesting mix of red and white wines and the top shelf boasts Indian, Tasmanian, Scottish and Japanese malts. The cocktails are both fun and tasty, and Andy’s own creations, such as signature drink, The Snow Candy – “I challenge you to have tried a tastier cocktail this month”, he declares – is a blend of Galliano Amaretto, Mozart white chocolate liqueur, crème de fraise and crème fraiche with strawberry puree and a pass of grated white chocolate.
The Bear also offers guests weekly drink and food specials: on Tuesday all bottles of wine are half price with food; on Wednesday diners receive 50 per cent off their total food bill; Thursday is $10 cocktail night and Sunday – $10 beer and pizza. The tagline on the Bear’s drinks menu is “a place for friends”. “It’s Cheers with Christmas trees. And why the hell not?” asks Andy.
The Bear, Thomas Lane, Haymarket (behind the Aaron Hotel).