Nick and Nora's Opening Night
He waltzed in wafting a theatrical tray of abundant Guava and Vodka shots before me. His body carried the elegance of a ballroom dancer even though the hip and happening haircut made me suspect he’d be more at home with house or hip hop. His tattoos crept passed the confines of his perfectly tailored navy suit and crisp white shirt. My bearded host embodied the mix of thoroughly modern and traditionalist.
The perfect cocktail of old and new continued throughout every detail of the art deco Nick and Nora’s on its opening night in October. The splendorous arrival all overseen by part-owner (and former Bartender of the Year), Greg Sanderson.
Details displayed the thoughtfulness for every aspect of their guests’ experience. A vibey Venue Manager clothed in a green tailored suit introduced himself as James as soon as I stepped out of the lift. It wasn’t just the wall of chilled champagne bottles echoing the rich green theme in glass that made me swoon. Over 50 kinds of champagne are on offer and bubbles were my first order while James left me to look through the pictorial playlist of originally crafted cocktails in the green-coloured menu where I learnt more about the eponymous Nick and Nora.
It’s hard to translate into words the sense of spectacle that this 26th storey sky bar offers. Viewing everything from St John’s chapel and Town Hall in Centenary Square below, right across the urban sprawl of suburbs all the way to the Harbour Bridge and city skyline creates a visual reminder of what you’ll experience here as petty stresses fall away and a higher perspective takes hold where you can literally see further than where your gaze had settled during the week. There’s even the option of a high-powered telescope if you want to focus your attention even more.
You feel elevated.
Your soul starts to float above the things that have been weighing you down. There’s a highness no substance can simulate. You meet new friends. And you lighten the load for each other, too. One of my new-found companions texted me the next day to say she “hadn’t laughed like that in ages”.
And that’s the passion that drove Greg to create Nick and Nora’s; “what we do is a luxury in people’s life, they don’t have to come in to your venue they want to. We have the ability to create some of the most memorable nights of people’s lives.”
As I explored the balcony on the western side of the bar, I caught the glorious sunset and could almost see Camden, where Greg was born in Western Sydney (NSW). He’s now living in funky Fitzroy (VIC), after years working in Brisbane (QLD). The bartending career has also taken him to places as far afield as New York and Scotland. No doubt this has developed Greg’s insight about how different places can affect outcomes.
Now as an owner, Greg’s passion to bring the wow factor to the venue extends to his choice of location. You’ll never be able to just stumble into one of his bars from a high-traffic area. And that’s also why you can book ahead (at nickandnoras.com.au) even if you only want to sit at the bar “so everyone who comes is someone who has intentionally chosen to be here. They’ll be people who share a love of champagne and cocktails. They’re not here out of necessity, they’re here to experience luxury,” Greg said, as we chatted in one of the casual cane lounges.
That mood is enhanced by the staff who are eager to serve – not just with your drink of choice, but also to entertain and add to your sense of joy in any way they can. Little touches like photo-bombing your selfie with a smile and a thumbs-up, or remembering your name hours after you arrived, help you feel like you belong in a room pulsating with first-night strangers. And smoothed over some first night hiccups (like a delay in getting our first-round of drinks).
Waiters were also ready to recommend one of the 400 whiskeys, which the well-dressed discerning gentlemen next to us indulged in. Us girls toyed with the idea of mysteries and martinis but chose more colourful options like Melon Trap and the punch-in-your-face flavours of Easter Island cocktails. The Rhubarb Royal again reflected romantic notions combining old and new served on a dainty white doily with a delicate sliver of crystallised rhubarb pegged to the edge of the tall fluted glass. Another cocktail had cascading baby’s breath falling from the top of the low glass.
The food menu has options to suit most tastes and budgets ranging from three dollar vegan canapes, and five dollar oysters to a decadent $250.00 serving of Black Pearl Beluga Caviar. The shared meat and cheese boards seemed to be the most popular option with the earlier crowd when I ordered.
I was certain Greg had achieved his intention of surrounding himself with intentional guests, as I stumbled out of the lift twenty-six floors below hours later and my friend said “Well, we just found the venue for my next birthday”. Staying open to midnight every night should attract the after dinner and theatre crowds, too.
One detail that I don’t think even the amazing skills of Greg Sanderson could pull off was that the opening night coincided with the first visit to Parramatta by the Young Royals - Prince Harry and his Hollywood starlet Meghan… both signalled a world-class flair for innovating much-loved and long-lived traditions had become part of our city.
Is it too much to drink a champagne toast to the new reign of Nick and Nora’s becoming just as long and prosperous as the Windsor Princes have been?