Non-alcoholic drinks are all the rage. Here are 10 of the best places to find a top drop in Melbourne and Sydney.
Attica started pairing seasonal juices to food a couple of years ago. Sophisticated matches include smoked granny smith apple juice, maybe paired with potato, toasted yeast and cream sauce - smoke matching the yeast while tart apple cuts through the cream.
74 Glen Eira Road, Ripponlea, Melbourne, 03 9530 0111
Patrons of Brae often drive from Melbourne, so a full wine pairing isn't always wise. Brae's non-alcoholic drinks often include ingredients from its garden. Restaurant manager Simon Freeman says, "in everything we do, we want to make the experience as special for the guests as possible, so every non-alcoholic drink has to be delicious in its own right, and also enhance the experience of eating each dish. It's a challenge we find really interesting and exciting."
4285 Cape Otway Road, Birregurra, 03 5236 2226
3. Eau de Vie
Bartender Sarah Fulford at Eau de Vie, one of Melbourne's premier cocktail bars, wants her customers to "experience everything we have to offer, even if they aren't drinking", including non-alcoholic versions of its five-course cocktail degustation and popular cocktails such as the Yuzu Mule with house-made yuzu curd and ginger beer.
1 Malthouse Lane, Melbourne, 0412 825 441
Russell Street's brand new wine bar Embla is on the wagon too, offering non-alcoholic options such as green tea infusions and kombucha. Co-owner Christian McCabe enjoys the undiscovered options of tea. "In Asia, people have been drinking tea with food for centuries, but we like to play with temperature and texture, too. People are used to drinking tea hot, but as it cools, the flavour and sensory experience changes, just like wine."
122 Russell Street, Melbourne, 03 9654 5923
Some of Melbourne's best restaurants are exploring food-matching options too, offering non-alcoholic pairings with their degustation menus. "There are several aspects to consider when matching with food," says Lume bar manager Nick Tesar. "The narrative being told, the point in the experience, the balance of flavours." Lume's list currently includes a drink emulating the umami and texture of traditional sake with clarified rice milk, shiitake mushroom and white soy.
226 Coventry Street, South Melbourne, 03 9690 0185
6. Bentley Restaurant + Bar
"Sometimes, I feel like I'm going to work at Boost Juice," Phil Gandevia jokes and mimics blitzing fruit through a juicer. He's made "wine" from beetroot, rhubarb and blow-torched bay leaf, smoked apple and verjuice with charred rosemary ("a shot at the whisky and apple juice trend"), and a desert lime and wood sorrel spritz. He goes beyond the "tendency to play snap – there's carrot on the plate, so there'll be carrot juice" – and his booze-free pairings are one of the most fun drinking experiences in Sydney.
Corner Pitt and Hunter streets, Sydney, 02 8214 0505
7. Biota Dining
Biota Dining's regional location inspired the restaurant's non-alcoholic matchings. "It came about through looking at the disappointment on many guests' faces when discussing who was driving and why they could only have one glass of wine," sommelier Ben Shephard says. Designated drivers won't feel overlooked here. Shephard has created a pear juice with walnut and sheep's whey and is fermenting plums to blend with preserved cumquats for February. "Quite often, the juice will be the most popular drink on the table."
18 Kangaloon Road, Bowral, 02 4862 2005
8. Momofuku Seiobo
The non-alcoholic drinks at Momofuku Seiobo are next level, thanks to Ambrose Chiang's intense efforts. Once, he created onion water from caramelising five types of onions and clarifying the broth. The result was like an aged sake. Currently, he makes blueberry and raspberry vinegar by hand-crushing three-kilogram batches of fruit and fermenting the mix with Normandy apple cider vinegar and honey. It's inspired by the "hectic vinegars" his teetotal mother drinks. The sommelier also freezes T Totaler French earl grey tea and spikes the melted brew with an earl grey caramel. It tastes like an addictive cloudy peach tea.
The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street, Pyrmont, 02 9777 9000
9. Rockpool Est. 1989
Bar manager Max Gurtler's approach is incredibly inventive. He makes strawberry water with smoked verjus and yuzu to evoke rosé and matches a rich wagyu dish with a subtle earl grey tea finished with dehydrated grapefruit peel and longan and red date vinegar. He plays with salt and non-juice bases (like coconut water and kombucha) so diners don't end up with an acidic juice belly once the night's over.
11 Bridge Street, Sydney, 02 9252 1888
10. Spice Temple
Get a buzz at Spice Temple, where bar manager Dane Reid has a stand-alone menu of house-made sodas. "It's a great alternative to having a boring Coke," he says. Enjoy the fizzy charm of lemongrass, chrysanthemum and rosewater, or the spicy ginger beer, served with orange peel, mint and a fresh-snapped kaffir lime leaf. The drinks are nicely matched to the Asian food, particularly the creamy coconut, Yakult and fruit combo that's engineered to cool the fiery blast of the chilli-rich menu.
10 Bligh Street, Sydney, 02 8078 1888