The recently opened Hotel Morris in Haymarket, Sydney, features a new bar with a focus on Italian drinks, twists on classic cocktails and an interesting approach to checking in.

Hotel Morris Sydney GM, Atsuko Asano, explained how the venue was a ‘hotel bar reimagined’.

“I think especially, in larger chains… There’s always a limitation on great wines.

“[At Morris] It’s just great wines – that’s something we’re really proud of. A selection of really boutique wineries and tasty wines.”

Atsuko is passionate about wines, and holds a WSET Cert Three. One Italian winery that is particularly heroed on the menu is Foradori Wines, created by highly influential winemaker, Elisabetta Foradori. The wines are also known for being difficult to procure in Australia, and The Shout asked Atsuko what had attracted her to the producer.

“I stumbled across it when I was in Melbourne and I was out with my Somm friend, and he picked this wine and I fell in love with it. I said: ‘If I’m doing an Italian restaurant, I have to have that.’

“I got Rosy [Scatigna], my head chef and Louis [Lim, Assistant Bar Manager] to try the Foradori. And they were both like: ‘Wow, this is awesome wine.’”

As luck would have it, a friend in the industry not only imported the wines, but also had access to rare back vintages.

The day-to-night bar also plays two key roles for the hotel.

“The bar itself, is a check in counter. In fact, we did have a couple of people having a glass of bubbles on opening day while checking in. To me, it’s a bit of a game changer… to be able to utilise that reception space.

The cocktail list has been developed by Tom Bulmer, of the Social Spirits company and Daintree Sydney. Atsuko shares the brief that she’d given him when creating the offering.

“The brief we gave him was that we wanted it to be something unique, but also, know the skill shortage out there.

“We wanted it to have a little bit of a twist, because that’s part of our concept, so that’s also what we’re doing in terms of the food – that traditional Italian food reimagined.”

And with regards to skill shortages, Atsuko explains that they wanted a cocktail list where new bartender could come in and hit the ground running. To ease this, all of the signature cocktails are prebatched, to allow for speedy and simple service.

The cocktail menu also takes influence from Morris’s location in the heart of Sydney’s Chinatown.

“Being in Haymarket, it’s about like a little bit of a Chinese spice touch – so really taking a little bit of Harmarket into Morris. One of my favourites is Salted Stars, which has chili in it. So it appeals again to the Haymarket community.

“Matching with food, and paying homage to Italy, as well as the locality of what’s around here, was how that list was created.”

Another key focus of the bar, which offers a point of difference, is Italian Amari. Atsuko explained how a visit to Italy helped inspire this offering.

“I remember into this really tiny restaurant and they had like, 10 different Amari. It was just such a difference for me… and I just thought, I really want something that people can experience.

“Some places do have a lot of Amari, but it’s not something that people talk about it. It’s really about educating people more than just drinking Martini Rosso or Antica Formula.

“Everyone’s got wines, and everyone’s got spirits. And they obviously want to find a difference.”

The focus on Amari also reflects Rosy’s Italian heritage, and the meals on offer.

Atsuko has a long professional history in hotels and has been with Accor (operators of Hotel Morris) for nearly 15 years. As such, she is well placed to evaluate what makes a perfect hotel bar.

“To me, that intimate service, where the bartender becomes your friend – when you can do that, that makes a great bar, and a great hotel bar. It only happens on rare occasions, when they get to know you and you establish that connection.”

The venue also boasts an opulent interior, with rich velvet textures for the seating, a pink marble bar and custom red pendant lighting. Alongside the bar, guests will find specially commissioned ceramic hands reaching out towards them – reflecting both the Italian penchant for gesticulation, and the ‘Handwritten Collection’ of hotels that Morris is part of. Interior design firm Tom Mark Henry worked on the space, alongside Monique Lane from Fellow Hospitality.

Finally, Atsuko shared her personal favourite cocktail on the menu.

“My favourite would be the Ocean’s Depth Martini,” she says.

This Morris twist on the Dirty Martini is made with Maidenii Sea Vermouth, specialty house brine and Sicilian olives.

“I love a Dirty Martini,” the GM concludes.

Bar Morris is located at412 Pitt Street, Haymarket, Sydney.
Opening hours are:
Breakfast: Mon – Fri: 6.30am – 10am. Sat & Sun: 7am – 10.30am
Lunch: Mon – Sun: 11am – 2.30pm
Dinner: Tue – Sat: 5.30pm – 10pm

Images including header by Steven Woodburn.

Andy Young

Andy joined Intermedia as Editor of The Shout in 2015, writing news on a daily basis and also writing features for National Liquor News. Now Managing Editor of both The Shout and Bars and Clubs.

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