Enough of the difficult second album. How about the difficult second letter? Upstairs to the hubbub of Castlereagh Street’s popular Greek restaurant, Alpha, lies not a spin-off, not a mere bar/waiting room, but a proper sip-and-sup venture of its own. Beta is a sleek spin on the Greek mezze bar concept, combining a punchy cocktail list, and a share plate menu by downstairs’ chef Peter Conistis.
And boy, is it slick. It’s evident that serious dollar bills have been rained upon the interior design. There’s grand archways and exposed brickwork, Vogue-Living-standard reclining chairs, and overhead, a cluster of globe-shaped lights that hang like planets, frozen in orbit. It’s the sort of place made by beautiful people, for beautiful people. I congratulate myself for actually wearing nice pants for the occasion.
Cocktails are expertly consulted upon, shaken, stirred, and delivered. A negroni made with Punt e Mes vermouth makes for a smoother-than-usual aperitif, while the Antika, a spiced pineapple rum cocktail, is bright and fragrant. There’s some handsome talent behind that handsome marble bar.
My long-suffering dining companion has a shellfish allergy, which, for our eating ventures, can be the best and blurst of times. Over the meals, I’ve forgone so many prawn and scallop options out of the goodness of my heart.
But kindness, when it comes to molluscs, has its limits, and I order the oysters with gay abandon. The trio of Sydney rock oysters are typically creamy and briny. Normally I like nothing more than a squeeze of lemon on mine, but at Beta they’re topped with a sweet-and-sour combo of chopped green olive, cucumber and sumac. The shells are served atop a tangle of shredded nori and wheat noodles—a pleasantly crunchy chaser, but I’m sure I look like a horse eating hay.
The Greek salad “ice” is brought to our table with beaming pride. It’s the obvious favourite child on the menu, and it’s easy to see why. The classic salad is reconstructed as a chilled dish, capable of being eaten with a single spoon. The cucumber and tomato ice is dazzlingly refreshing and palate-cleansing, with the texture (and function) of a mid-course sorbet. Paired with the pleasingly salty feta jelly and candied olives, it’s a beautifully balanced and clever reimagining of the Greek classic.
What else? The sheftalies, Cyprus-style koftas of pork and lamb, are comfort finger food. The sweetbread popcorn is a must-try. The deep-fried nuggets are crispy on the outside, with an inside that’s surprisingly spongy and sweet. Dip in the zhoug skordalia sauce—it’s like a creamy pesto—and hey presto, it’s addictive organ fun for everyone.
No doubt the mastic ice-cream sandwich will be a hit, but our waitress gently steers us to the galaktoboureko. Think a grown-up baklava, without the cloying sweetness. It’s layered with a silky almond milk custard, almond cinnamon syrup, and roasted almonds. Simply delicious.
Always listen to the waitstaff—they have the best advice, especially if they’re as attentive, knowledge and proud of their menu, as they are at Beta. Our waitress even gives us a sneak-peek of the function room, a previously vacant space that’s been spruced up for forthcoming classy events.
It’s the slow and steady that wins the race. After a few delays, Beta ticks all the boxes of good modern Sydney dining. Drink a little, eat a little more, and feel a lot like a Greek goddess. As the second-born of the Hellenic Club clan, Beta gets an A+.
Looking for more bars in Sydney? Head to our Bars & Pubs section on the site.
Image credit: Beta