35 Bettington St Millers Point, NSW 2000
|Opening hours||Tue-Sat noon-late; Sun noon-10pm|
|Features||Licensed, Views, Accepts bookings, Bar, Late night|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, Cash, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9018 0123|
After seven years in hibernation, Hotel Palisade relaunched itself in August and I, as I wrote at the time, am a big fan. Deliberately beautiful, but beautiful nonetheless (although if you're not going to serve Reschs, take down that original Dinner Ale mirror and give it to a pub that does, you heathens).
The entrepreneur who bought the The Rocks' ancient drinking obelisk wasn't going to sit back and let the first floor do all the work though, and cocktail lounge Henry Deane opened its rooftop doors on November 11.
It's split over two levels and I hit the lower section first. There's a couple of smartly furnished rooms you can commandeer with mates, a balcony with grade-A views of the Bridge, MC Escher-esque floor tiles and an original Paul Ryan. I like the place, but don't love it like the ground floor bar.
I'm here on one of those days that turn seatbelts into branding irons, so sitting in what is essentially a glass box on top of a building isn't the most comfortable hour of my life (do not visit here in plus-40-degree heat). It's so hot in fact, the Henry Deane kitchen has switched off its oven.
Briny Sydney rock oysters out of Pambula are still terrific though, served natural and on ice for $4.50 each. Elsewhere in raw food adventures, a healthy portion of lamb tartare ($23) is zipped up with fresh horseradish (would order again) although tranches of kingfish sashimi ($19) feel a little crowded on the plate (bok choy, coriander: you go; cucumber, bonito dressing: you stay).
Eight house-made cocktails are listed on the drinks menu, along with a respectable number of spirits, two pages of drinkable wine across all price points and four beers I wouldn't use to clean my drains. I order a Greg's Grog ($21) house cocktail of Appleton Signature and Havana Club three-year-old rum, passionfruit, fresh pineapple juice, lime and black pepper bitters served in a tiki mug. I finish it in under a minute (because: heat) and it's glorious.
After reaching peak schvitz in the glass box, I head up to the next level, which is a mise-en-scene straight from a Tommy Bahama catalogue: cane furniture, pastel pink cushions, blokes in white linen their wives bought them. It's really not that fantastic a room and it doesn't have to be because, oh my stars, the view.
Floor-to-ceiling windows showcase more than 270 degrees of the harbour and at sunset you'll see colours you never knew existed. When international guests visit, this is where to start the tour. It's not a rooftop bar where you can swan around deck chairs and clink moscato, though. In fact, "rooftop bar" is a bit of a stretch given it's mostly enclosed (there is an open balcony attached that on my visit is colonised by smokers). While it's fair to lament the lack of open air in summer, at least the joint can be used all year round. Very keen to roost up here in winter and watch the wind and rain go bananas.
Airconditioning quibbles aside, it's great to see The Palisade utilised like this. Hell, you don't need tourist mates as an excuse to visit, just head there yourself, order a dozen afternoon oysters and enjoy some of the best views in town.
Go for… the sunset views.
Stay for… oysters and rum.
Drink… Greg's Grog.
And… there's an 8 per cent surcharge for table service. Ouch.