RICK Stein's seafood restaurant is not the only reason to make the trip to Bannister's at Soldiers Point.
The luxury hotel's Terrace Bar has been transformed into a Mediterranean-inspired pop-up restaurant, offering flavoursome dishes from the region paired with a specialty cocktail menu.
Toli's opened earlier this month following the success of Mexican pop-up Julio's during the summer months.
Executive chef Mitch Turner has taken flavours from Turkey to Tunisia and beyond to design the wholesome, rich and aromatic menu which includes fresh bread and dips, share plates, mezze plates, sides and desserts.
"We've chosen an expansive area with rich history and cherry-picked the dishes we think we're most able to respectfully recreate," Turner said.
"We wanted to experience new ideas, flavours and ingredients.
"Believe it or not, SBS's Food Safari was a stand-out for inspiration along with [chef Yotam] Ottolenghi's cookbooks."
Everything on the menu is designed to be shared. Turner recommends starting with the fluffy, fresh-baked yoghurt bread and za'atar.
"The bread really anchors the flavours to all the dishes. It's baked to order and you can't tell me there's anything better than freshly baked bread," he said.
"From there I'd build out with the eggplant dip, the falafels - which one of my chefs spent a long time getting right - and the stone-baked brill, and finish with the Turkish coffee mousse."
Other dishes include hummus with sumac burnt butter; griddled halloumi with burnt honey, thyme and nuts; char-grilled lamb kebab with onion and sumac salad; chermoula baked eggplant with tabbouleh salad and tahini; Aleppo pepper lamb with pomegranate dressing; and spiced local free-range chicken (from Hunter Valley supplier Little Hill Farm) with labneh and kohlrabi salad.
"This menu has opened up a whole new catalogue of flavours with things like rose water and date syrup applied to savoury dishes and adding a whole new dimension," Turner said.
The drinks list features a curated list of Mediterranean-inspired cocktails, including a bahar negroni with Brookie's macadamia and wattleseed liquor, Campari and dry vermouth, or the kahve martini with Allpress espresso coffee, house-spiced Absolut vodka and Kahlua, as well as Moroccan and Spanish wines.
Diners can soak up the atmosphere inside the dining room which has been decorated with lanterns and colourful Turkish cushions or choose a spot on the verandah overlooking the infinity pool, enjoying the warmth of the outdoor fire heaters dotted around the outdoor area.
Toli's is open seven nights from 5.30pm to 9pm. Book online at bannisters.com.au/tolis
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