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Jun 16th 2021
The Blend
Australia

DEAN & NANCY: So very fancy

It pays to make an entrance.

Step off Hunter Street, away from the hordes and into the A by Adina hotel. The business of scanning in — that QR thing we do these days — is taken care of before you hit the elevator on the lower ground floor. Step inside the elevator, and it’s a quick climb in the lift to level 21. But you’re not there yet.

Step out of the elevator and ascend the stairs in front of you that wraps around — overlooking the indoor pool, framed by ceiling to floor glass windows. It doesn’t feel like you’re in Sydney.

But there you are. As you reach the top step, you’ve arrived at Dean & Nancy on 22. And maybe it’s the pandemic, which kept us grounded, or maybe you’ve just haven’t travelled away from home in too long. But you feel like you’re about to take flight, perched high atop the city streets below, like a bird of prey swooping between skyscrapers; rising up next to you is Australia Square; on the south side you can look down on the pool bar at Ivy. You think about the New York Bar at the Park Hyatt in Tokyo, Manhattan skyscrapers, whisky neat, crisp shirts and dark suits and hell, there’s a grand piano right in front of you. You take it all in. You haven’t even reached the bar yet.

It’s at the bar, though, where you’ll notice the pedigree of Dean & Nancy on 22. It’s in the burgundy jackets of the bartenders that channel the rat pack glamour of its siblings: the recently opened Sammy Junior and the highly awarded Maybe Sammy (you know, that bar that hit number 11 on the World’s 50 Best Bars list last year). 

And it’s in the rattle of the dice thrown as part of the garnish to the bar’s Rolling A Double cocktail; roll the dice, hit a double, and you’ll receive a complimentary glass of champagne. 

It’s in the service, the attention to detail, the eagerness to show you a good time — and that has led to Dean & Nancy being well received, and very busy.

“It’s been great,” says co-owner and bartender Andrea Gualdi. “It has been surprising, we’ve had a lot of people come through the door since the first day we opened.”

Dean & Nancy on 22 is three weeks into service when we visit and hitting its straps, but it’s not all smooth sailing — especially when it’s the latest cocktail bar from a team with a bar on the prestigious World’s 50 best Bars list.

“For us, it’s a bit of pressure — especially when you’re opening, you want to make sure you don’t f*** up,” says Gualdi.

Dean & Nancy on 22 is a hotel bar in the tradition of the great European hotel bars — but executed in the Sammy group’s trademark style.

“I think it’s pretty unique in Sydney — you have a couple of venues that are nice, with a nice view, but they don’t offer what you can get in the small bars of the city,” says Gualdi. “So we tried to combine the two, which is five star service, as in a hotel bar, but with a small business attitude and the way that we present the drinks.

“It’s definitely a hotel bar. We do room service, we’re going to start to do in-room cocktails, and from next month we’re going to open breakfast and lunch.”

Sit at the bar, sip on a drink, and look out as the sun goes down in the west and you could be forgiven for thinking you’re elsewhere — and that is by design, Gualdi says.

“The vibe we want to achieve up here, especially at night time, is that you don’t feel like you’re really in Sydney.

“You get a vibe that I think is very different to most of the bars that around.”

There are, of course, hotel bars in Sydney and around Australia. But we tend to do them differently to the Europeans.

“Overseas, there is a big culture of the hotel bar,” says Gualdi, who himself spent time at the Artesian at The Langham in London, when it was considered by many the best bar in the world. 

“I think in a hotel bar you have this feeling of luxury — it’s very much guest-focused and everything runs around the guest experience,” he says. 

“The opportunity to work within a hotel for us it’s great, for the fact that our guests don’t finish their experience when they leave the bar; they can carry on into the night, we have all the Maybe Sammy bottled cocktails in the room.

“It gives us more freedom to explore different things that we couldn’t do in a normal bar.”

Contrast that with many Australian hotel bars, where you’ll often pay top dollar for an experience that leaves something to be desired.

“In Sydney, especially, it’s a belief to break; you can have fun in a hotel bar,” says Gualdi. “It looks a bit stiff sometimes, you go into a hotel bar and it’s like you’re in a church.”

That just isn’t so at Dean & Nancy on 22. The piano player is clearly enjoying themselves, and so too are the guests; the cocktail list, designed around a narrative of Dean and Nancy, has an emphasis on good times, too.

“We made up these two fictional characters, which are Dean and Nancy, and basically they’re a couple from the 1960s and we want to tell their story,” Gualdi says.

The cocktail menu is divided into six categories: music, travel, food, coffee, games, and the journey. In each category, you’ll find two drinks inspired by the category — one for Dean, and one for Nancy.

“They have very different points of view on each category, but they still share the main elements,” says Gualdi.

“We didn’t want to stereotype, so Nancy is a bit more fun, and outgoing, Dean is a little more calm and on the boring side. Take this category, music, for example; she likes to go ballroom dancing, more rock and roll music, where he likes jazz,” he says.

As we leave, the tins are rattling behind the bar, the piano player is singing, the room is humming. Dean & Nancy on 22 has definitely made an entrance.