Levantine-inspired oasis opens in Sydney CBD

01 July, 2019 by
Madeline Woolway

A 1200sqm bar and restaurant has opened on Level 7 of Westfield Pitt Street Sydney.

Babylon, a Levantine-inspired urban rooftop metropolis, encompasses an outdoor bar, live hanging garden terrace and an inner bar with nine metre bar top crafted from Emperador dark gold Spanish marble, as well as a collection of dining spaces.

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The Babylon bars occupies two thirds of the total venue space with a capacity of 330. Bar manager David Nutting (Restaurant Hubert, Eau de Vie, Miss Peaches, Gowings Bar and Grill) has crafted six signature cocktails, each inspired by the flavours and spices of the Middle East and Eastern Mediterranean. On the list is the Beykoz (Ketel One Vodka, sweet vermouth, house-made watermelon soda, hibiscus, rosehip, pomegranate and the Smoke & Baklava (Del Maguey Vida Mezcal, house-made baklava caramel, lime, egg white).

In addition, there’s two bottled cocktails: the Baharat Fashioned, a Middle Eastern take on the classic Old Fashioned with fat-washed Baharat buttered Plantation Original Dark Rum, banana liqueur, house-made banana sherbet and chocolate bitters; and the Martini Alla Turk, a twist on the gin classic combining Tanqueray London Dry Gin with house-roasted cumin seed and rosemary vermouth.

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Classics have not been forgotten, with the list featuring libations such as the House Negroni, Philadelphia Fish House Punch and Queen’s Park Swizzle.

“The cocktails needed to make as much of a statement as the Babylon venue design does,” says Nutting. “They’re rich in colour and taste and together with the whiskies and broader spirits offering, are the perfect complement to the space and food.”

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There’s also a 250+ whisky list (of which 150 are single malts), more than 400 bottles of international and Australian spirits and a wine list of almost 300 bottles of Old and New World wines, courtesy of Sommelier Simon Howland (Nomad, Catalina, River Café London).

Head chef Arman Uz (Jaaks Dining, Flanagans Dining Room, Efendy) brings a wealth of experience working in Israel, Lebanon, Cyprus, Turkey and Egypt. Almost 30 dishes grace the bar menu, including meze, gozleme, pide, house-made breads and wood-fired delicacies.

Think charred Turkish chillies and molasses; hummus with wattleseed dukkah; atom, labna, Turkish peppers, chilli butter and housemade bread; Port Lincoln sardine dolmas; duck, almond, coriander and cinnamon sugar gozleme; sucuk, kasari cheese, roasted pepper and tomato pide; falafel, tahini sauce, pickles and Lavish bread; cabbage kebab; and chicken wings with harissa marinade.

The menu for the 212-seated restaurant is inspired by rich and flavourful Levantine cuisine. It crosses borders, combining the seafood influences of the Eastern Mediterranean with the rustic and bold cuisine of the Middle East.

Split into flora, fauna and ocean, most dishes are cooked over wood and charcoal on a custom-built three-metre-long Mangal (Turkish grill) and two rotisseries. Everything from bread to baklava will be made in-house, along with cured meats such as spicy sucuk sausages and basturma.

A handful of sweets round out the extensive menu. There’s a modern take Kazandibi, a caramelised, burnt milk pudding with house-made sour cherry sorbet; an assiette of baklava with kadafi and Arabic ice cream; and Turkish Delight with mascarpone and chocolate.

“The menu draws upon food experiences of my youth, such as eating hummus from street vendors who make it fresh-to-order, recipes handed down within my family, as well as broader Levantine influences,” says Uz. “One thing all these cultures agree on is that food should be shared and that’s at the heart of Babylon’s menu in both the bar and the restaurant.”

Hogg & Lamb architects and interior stylists Stewart + Highfield are behind the fit out, which has been inspired the ancient metropolis of Babylon and its Hanging Gardens. A serious of adjoining buildings and rooms are bound by a laneway that leads guests from the restaurant to the outdoor terrace.

Natural coarse elements such as split-face travertine and hardwood timber are juxtaposed against silky and velvety upholstery. Lining the walls of entire venue are Italian beige travertine archways with booth seating while more than 600 bottles of wine will fill three wine walls.

With a total venue capacity of 800, there are multiple private and semi-private spaces available for events and entertaining within the bars and restaurant including the turret dining space located on the outdoor terrace for six guests, a private dining room for 20 plus various areas for large group dining and cocktail events.

Babylon is the second Sydney venue for Mantle Group Hospitality: Duck & Rice shares the Westfield Pitt Street rooftop with Babylon and the group’s first NSW venture, The Squire’s Landing, launched in The Rocks mid-2018. The group now has 16 venues across Sydney and Brisbane.

Image credit: Steven Woodburn