Finding a nice spot to relax in Circular Quay might seem baffling to the first-timer – the place is constantly swarming with seas of tourists and opera-goers. But quiet corners do exist, and the trick is to look up.
If you’re in the market for a drink with a view, you’d be hard pressed to find a more stunning location than the third floor of the Pullman Quay hotel. Hacienda is the newest offering from the Pullman group, with a stunning, Cuban Plantation-inspired interior designed by Applejack Hospitality.
The decor is all pastels and florals, with an enormous feature topiary shaped in a circle adorning the furthest wall. Wall-to-floor glass lets in so much natural light that very few light fittings are actually needed, and the sun blazing through gets almost uncomfortable levels in the later parts of the day. The glass panels can be pulled back for events, and to give off a terrace-like feel.
Upon arrival we are greeted with a white paper bag of prawn crackers. It’s… confusing. As unappealing in their presentation as they are in the taste, the only purpose of the crackers (I assume) is to tide us over until the wait staff take our drinks order – which, as this takes around 20 minutes, is more delayed than necessary.
As this is a day-night bar, cocktails are clearly the venue’s magnum opus, and we try a few, which are exceptional. With drinks costing around $20 a pop, the menu exhibits an intriguing amount of range – although things are pretty rum-heavy. The flame-thrown Pina Princessa ($21) features Plantation pineapple rum, mezcal, apricot brandy, and ginger beer and is wonderfully sweet and drinkable. We also try the Monk’s Secret To Happiness ($21) – a nod to Dom Bénédictine. It’s tart, and it’s fruity, and it’s just right.
We are also brought a selection from the bar food menu, and unfortunately no full meals are available – just tapas-style bites. While the spiced lamb riblets are really quite more-ish, the chorizo balls feel heavy and over-flavoured, though are saved somewhat by a fruity tomato relish. An enormous plate of corn chips and dips fills out the rest of our meal.
Ultimately the food and drink is fine, but for the price it would have been nice to see more thought put into the menu, which is chock-full of fried goods and very light on vegetarian options. A few lighter, fresh dishes wouldn’t go astray.
Nonetheless, we are most let down by the service. Our waitress is kind and helpful but the bartender is snobbish and rude. Over the course of the visit we feel like we have to ask for assistance at every turn, which takes away from the “temporary oasis” we would have liked to experience instead.
The place might want to give off a vibe of rustic luxury, but unfortunately the overriding feeling one gets is of awkwardness and arrogance. Nevertheless, on the strengths of a few of its drinks alone, Hacienda does have a lot of potential to be a Circular Quay stalwart to rival the Opera Bar down the Quay.