The Sydney Fine-Dining Restaurants Leading the Way in Non-Alcoholic Set Menus

Sydney set menu non alcoholic

Some of Sydney’s best fine-dining restaurants, including Aria, Quay, Yellow and Botanic House, offer non-alcoholic drink pairings with their set menus. Forget sugary mocktails, the selected drinks are made with native Australian ingredients like finger lime and Kakadu plum, and in some cases, custom-designed to a dish.

The diversity of the pairing is what surprises most diners who order the non-alcoholic set menu pairing, called Temperance Pairing, says Steven Pietersma, Quay’s head of beverage. Featuring on the menu at Quay since 2008 when the restaurant moved to set menus only, the non-alcoholic pairings consist of different drinks that keep the palate stimulated.

“The pairing was curated by the sommeliers and bar staff who aimed to create the perfect balance between Peter Gilmore cuisine and beverage,” says Pietersma. “The idea also has been to look at the pairing as a wine pairing. Freshness, acidity, tannin, flavour and textures.”

Sydney set menu non alcoholic
Image: Quay

Vegan restaurant Yellow’s non-alcoholic pairing is aligned with its ethos of exploring how to get the most out of fruit and vegetables. The non-alcoholic pairing was created by the venue’s bartender who experimented with fermentation, maceration, infusion and carbonation.

“People are blown away by [the non-alcoholic options’] drinkability,” says Nick Hildebrandt, Yellow’s head sommelier. “We’ve put a lot of time and effort into creating this offering. At the start, only non-drinkers ordered, but it’s started to make a name for itself and all customers [people who drink] are trying it.”

Yellow restaurant Sydney non-alcoholic pairing
Image: Yellow

Botanic House’s non-alcoholic drinks pairing, called NO-LO, was created by its hospitality group Trippas White Group’s Group Sommelier, Louella Matthews, and its chef Luke Nguyen. The two tasted different drinks alongside Nguyen’s meals.

“Botanic House is a lunchtime destination, so a lot of diners were either drinking or didn’t want to drink much but still wanted the experience,” says Matthews. “Both those who drink and don’t have been ordering the non-alcoholic pairing, and I think that’s the biggest misconception, that people who drink non-alcoholic abstain all the time.”

The non-alcoholic pairing is for people who enjoy wine and cocktails but might choose not to drink on a particular day. Matthews says when goes out with friends, she switches between drinking alcoholic and non-alcoholic, wanting to enjoy being social, but without a hangover.

Sydney set menu non alcoholic

Aria’s non-alcoholic pairing changes when the seasonal set menu does, and Australian native and seasonal produce are incorporated into the drinks. Toni Clayton, Aria’s general manager, says the non-alcoholic pairing came about by diners requesting it.

“We love having an offer that shows non-drinkers that we value them as guests and are doing what we can to give them a great experience,” says Clayton. “The non-alcoholic pairing is mostly ordered by non-drinkers, but occasionally we see it chosen by people who aren’t big wine fans and those interested in trying out something different.”

Clayton says a big part of the reason more restaurants are leaning into non-alcoholic offerings is the growth in the non-alcoholic space, with new brands on the market, including two of the most popular Altina, served at Botanic House, and NON, founded in 2019 and now on the menu on 250-odd Australian restaurants.

Sydney set menu non-alcoholic NON
Image: NON

Aaron Trotman, founder of NON, says initially he and his team approached restaurants to introduce them to NON and ask to be on menus. Now, the restaurants are approaching NON requesting to stock it. Trotman believes it’s a result of chefs and sommeliers recognising the demand for top-quality non-alcoholic beverages.

“Some restaurants are slow to catch on, doubting whether non-alcoholic drinks will sell or misunderstanding our particular part of the category: wine alternatives,” Trotman says. “We’ve proving non-alcoholic can be just as complex and enjoyable.

“Changing minds takes time, but we’re making it happen.”

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