Hospitality heavyweight Matt Whiley is hoping the new bar he opens in Sydney next year will help drive a global movement to reframe how bars talk about, and act on, sustainability and waste.
RE- is opening in South Eveleigh in February and sees Matt collaborate with Maurice Terzini (Icebergs Dining Room & Bar; CicciaBella). The bar is being built from the ground up to be one of the world’s best, with the kind of drinks program Whiley has made a global name on, supported by Terzini’s signature tone and style.
“RE- is a cocktail bar, first and foremost – a place for people to hang out, have fun, and leave knowing they’ve enjoyed excellent service, good food and great drinks with their mates”, says Matt. “But if you strip back the layers, you realise there is so much more at play here. We care about our environment, we care about people and we care about our future.”
Just last week Bars and Clubs asked just how viable zero waste is for bars, drawing on the experience of Rich Wood, who is now Head Bartender at Scout, where Matt really first brought the pioneering zero waste ethos to life.
At Scout Matt brought a sharp focus to local ingredients and sustainability, leading the way with drinks that preference innovation and taste while minimising waste. At RE-, Matt is pushing that to its limits, interrogating everything from the materials and glassware, to the light fittings, ingredients and garnishes, through to what goes in the bin.
Matt adds: “Ultimately, the conversation in the industry can’t just be about shifting how you run a service, it’s completely changing how you dictate what comes through your door in the first place, and that extends to the furniture you use, how you build a menu, what produce you’re getting in, even what packaging it comes in.
“This is not about preaching what should be done, it’s about creating the platform to take the vital conversation around waste in hospitality forward.”
At RE-, Matt will oversee a list of eight-to-10 changing signature cocktails. Built on diverted waste and leaning more twist than traditional, there will be a section of highballs and spritzes, as well as classics to get you started. All the drinks will showcase the kinds of innovative techniques he’s known for.
The bar will serve a range of toasties, flatbread and other bar snacks made with sustainable ingredients and reclaimed produce.
“Just because it’s made from offcuts or seconds doesn’t mean it needs to be virtuous,” says Maurice.
The ground-breaking approach extends to the look and feel of the venue; an inspiring collaboration with independent creative production company, Alfred, that pushes the boundaries for sustainable design. Housed in a raw-brick heritage site at South Eveleigh, RE-’s arched windows will cast light on materials chosen for aesthetics as much as impact.
A central bar and tables resembling terrazzo are made from Re-Plas recycled bottles and tupperware. Stairs – leading to a mezzanine for groups and masterclasses – and structural features are made from recycled plastic bags. Wood is sustainable, banquettes are clothed in pineapple-leaf fibre and elegant light fittings and wine coolers are made from mycelium. Phillipe Starck and Odger stools and chairs, meanwhile, are built from recycled and reclaimed materials.
Matt says: “Never has this subject been more important. Food waste costs our economy $20 billion a year – more than five-million tonnes of food ends up in landfill; one in five bags of groceries winds up in the bin. We have a responsibility to look hard at what we’re not using and find ways to make it desirable. At RE-, we’ll showcase this through our bar program, but also build a platform geared towards change on a global level. The time is now”.
Further details about the launch of RE- will be announced in due course.