I was quite impressed by Arborist (the downstairs bar), and I hadn’t expected to be given its a hotel bar done over, and those can sometimes feel a bit lip service.
However, Arborist’s decor has a cosy log cabin feel, the staff were exceedingly welcoming, fun and friendly, the music matched the decor (slightly country/Steely Dan-ish) and the food was appropriately nibbly to go with a drink or two. They also have a cosy-feeling function room down the back, which a friend told me worked very nicely for a seminar recently.
The menu was split into bar bites (like quinoa, cheddar and cauliflower cakes with chilli yoghurt; tortillas with turtle bean salsa, avocado and hot sauce; or a Lumber Jack double beef/cheese or Hot Bird southern fried chicken thigh burger), protein dishes (like crispy pork belly, house gravy and apple crisp; jerk chicken; mutton back strap; or butchers sausages) and green dishes (like beetroot, avocado, pea, red onions, sherry vinegar and chilli; superslaw of kale, carrot, red onion, sweetcorn, chilli, nuts, cabbage and seeds; or caramelised brussel sprouts with shallots and pomegranate). A good range of greens in the current meat-obsessed market.
Nothing was more than $14, and most dishes were under $10. Good prices when you just want a nibble with a drink. Pictured above are the quinoa cakes and southern fried haloumi chips, and at right, the jerk chicken and roast veg salad.
I see they do breakfasts and brunches as well, with some interesting options there too – vegetarian mince on toast of black lentils, coconut, mustard seeds and buttered sourdough; Turkish eggs soft poached with savoury Greek yoghurt, nut chilli butter, toasted coriander seeds and grainy toast; and fig and macadamia brioche french toast with chocolate anglaise or ricotta, love honey and almonds. Tempting.
On the drink front, there were some interesting cocktails (mai tai with added caramelised banana and butter rum; mojito of white rum and pineapple gum syrup with green tea and lime, garnished with mint and a honey cured pineapple slice; pick-me-up of gin, fresh grapefruit juice and agave nectar shaken and served with a spice rim and home-made candied grapefruit peel), all with interesting names like Procrastination, Mid Life Crisis or World Famous Fully Loaded Bloody Mary (!), and a reasonable range of international and local beers and wines (sorry I didn’t get much past the cocktails).
I was actually in a non-alcoholic mood that night so asked the bartender if they had mocktails. He immediately offered to magic something up for me, and after asking a few questions about likes and dislikes produced this above. I’m damned if I know what went into it, but it was tangy without being sharp, not over fruited and long and cool. And oh so pretty with flowers on the top.
One of the group did go for a ‘happy ending’ of Smores and ice cream, which was deconstructed and sweet, and again high in the pretty stakes (pictured below).
The cabin rules on the back of the toilet door totally summed up the humour of the staff we dealt with, and should not be missed when visiting Arborist (a couple of examples – we reserve the right to tell you to make like a tree and leave if you are rude or disrespectful to our staff or customers; silver, gold dust or nuggets will also be accepted as payment; no sleeping on the grass or tables, we have rooms next door if you are in need of a snooze).
And I believe their rooftop bar (yes it is on the top of the Trinity Hotel on the 7th floor – access via the hotel lobby lift) is either just opened by now, or just about to. I believe there’s lots of artificial greenery, small BBQs on the table so you can take a creative part in your dining experience, and a fully stocked bar. Bring it on (and the weather to go with it!).
166 Willis Street.