Even before the team from Hartsyard opened its new bar in Enmore, I think we were all already pre-enrolled in The Gretz Fan Club. Owners Naomi Hart and Gregory Llewellyn have deservedly gained a huge, unshakeable following for their original venture in Newtown – where Hartsyard’s supersized flavours (and charms) can still conjure a wait for tables at 10pm on a Saturday – so a spin-off venture located only blocks away (opposite Enmore Theatre) was always going to be ultra-warmly received. Having The Gretz’s service headed by Mark Rowland is just another upside, as he’s been a total ace at Hartsyard – making an impression with his friendliness, lightning efficiency and sharp wit. (Will joked that they should’ve called the new place “Marksyard”.)
At the second venue, Gregory has created the menu as well (with a kitchen headed by Stu McGill), but he’s keen not to cross-pollinate between Hartsyard and The Gretz – both establishments are to have their own bold, stand-alone personalities.
Like Hartsyard, though, The Gretz is also designed by Ashley Couch – and while Naomi’s poor dad didn’t have to scrub 2000 pieces of piping in turpentine because it arrived in the wrong colour (which happened at Hartsyard), the interiors have many one-of-a-kind features, such as bar stools upholstered in jeans belonging to friends and family who had lent Gregory and Naomi money for the fit-out. “I thought it was a nice way to pay homage to their incredible belief in and support of us,” says Naomi. There’s some personal history – and the bullseye work of Cupid – in one of those seats, too; Gregory “snuck in the pair of jeans that he wore on our first date 8 years ago”. And while it’s fine to bust your own seams at Hartsyard (given how generous the serves are), try not to take the same approach to The Gretz’s bar stools – you’ll undo the good work of Top Notch Upholstery.
Other personal touches include shelving made from wood that had been sitting on a family friend’s property for two decades, and countless ropes suspended from the ceiling, “all hand-spliced by my eldest brother who used to sail around the world – that took most of the Christmas holidays to do, actually!” says Naomi.
To go with cocktails, a light selection of wines, and local brews from Yulli’s, Young Henrys and The Grifter, Gregory’s menu is custom-built around seafood snacks: think Salmon Jerky, Oysters, Clams Casino, Tostones (with snapper ceviche, inspired by Gregory’s two years in Puerto Rico) and Uni on Toast (Naomi says it’s a dish that Gregory has talked about doing for ages and its distinctive aftertaste is like “a very minerally, metallic wine”). There are some vego-friendly options, too: the Giardiniera is like a cross between eating pickles and assembling Ikea furniture, in a good way (no allen key needed – just construct what you like from the jar of brine-sharp vegies, bread satisfyingly branded by heavy grill marks, and a good dollop of smoky onion dip), and the very addictive Scotch Olives, which are stuffed with a Manchego fondue, fried and shrouded in more cheese and airy garlic mayo shot from a whipped cream gun. Yep, this is levels and levels above snacking on nuts.
And if you’re intrigued by the idea of a nori-infused cocktail called The Old Bastard In The Sea or just want to sink a Pisco Sour but hate the idea of being stalled in a non-moving queue as the person in front of you orders six incredibly labour-intensive cocktails – rejoice, as The Gretz’s American influence goes beyond its name (a Philly brewery started by Gregory’s great-great-grandfather) and menu approach, it also includes the US custom of table service, too. Consider me a confirmed member of The Gretz Fan Club.