Ashley Sutton’s new ventures are always hot tickets, and Dear Lilly on the roof of ifc mall, having just celebrated its grand opening last week, is already packed wall-to-wall and out the door with customers looking for a gander at Sutton’s subversive, cacophonous-chic and oh-so-recognisable interiors. That said, the maestro remains modest about his aesthetic. “It doesn’t matter to me whether they recognise me as the designer,” he insists. “My objective is to create spaces which inspire and move people. As long as they come and want to spend time there, I’m happy.”
Love and romance are bygone themes that might seem a little trite in 2018 for a hip new bar, but Sutton mines this core topic skilfully, with booths created to resemble giant keepsake boxes, flowers that bloom from the ceiling and dot the walls in tiny bottles, and flooring etched with quotes from found and forgotten love letters. “In the age of instant messaging, romance has become lost,” muses Sutton. “In the old world, people would write letters to their lovers, these were works of art where people poured their hearts out on paper. When I was researching love letters, I became fascinated by letters from the wars where lovers would talk about their love for each other and their hopes for the future, many of which were heartbreaking.” Lovers will enjoy seats inside the heart-shaped booths, while scenesters will no doubt elect for spots on the terrace with views of the harbour and the buzz of those enjoying drinks.
The cocktail menu transports guests to 1920s Paris, as French liqueurs get a contemporary mixology makeover: Mad Enchantment, for example, contains Pere Magloire Calvados and Lillet Rouge vermouth, with apple, lemon, vanilla and blackberry additions, while Mademoiselle Lilly is Stoli vodka, Kwai Feh liqueur, Lillet Blanc, cranberry, lime, raspberry and homemade hibiscus syrup, a fruity, floral concoction that is only enhanced by the heady scents of dried flowers that wafts occasionally from various corners of the lounge.
There’s a full menu at Dear Lilly filled with mod-Euro fare, all of it certifiable date-night food. Slow-cooked octopus with roasted pepper salsa is always a crowd pleaser; a seafood platter with oysters, mussels, calamari and more means hand-feeding each other is always an option; mains like New Zealand lamb cutlets and corn-fed chicken are sizeable enough to share between two; and desserts are classic, sweet and dare we say, just a little cheesy (think raspberry-white chocolate hearts and chocolate domes).
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