How Lachy Sturrock tailored his new venue’s drinks to the locals (and how he didn’t)

It pays to be adaptable when you open a new concept.

How Lachy Sturrock tailored his new venue’s drinks to the locals (and how he didn’t)
Folly's co-owners Sam Smith (left) and Lachy Sturrock. Photo: Steven Woodburn/Supplied


Lachy Sturrock spent much of the past decade as the key bars guy for Sydney hospitality group, Applejack. So you can figure that, when it came to writing a cocktail list for his own venue — Folly’s, a bar and bistro in Cammeray on Sydney’s north shore, opened back in November — that he’d be pretty well covered.

“That didn’t take as long because working at Applejack, overseeing all those venues, I had a massive list of cocktails that I had planned to put into a venue or had an idea that didn’t quite work out,” Lachy says in the interview below. “So I just tweaked. That was quite easy at the end.”

But that doesn’t mean the process was simple, and opening a bar and bringing new drinks to a market — especially a neighbourhood like leafy Cammeray — requires research.

Lachy and co-owner Sam Smith did their research. They spent the first five months running the venue under its previous moniker as a pub, and that allowed them to get a feel for not just what the locals were after, but for what they wanted to offer them, too.

“Because I was here every day on the tools, I was pretty open with the locals as to what our plan was, just so I could gauge their interest,” Lachy says.

In the video here and in the interview, lightly edited and condensed for clarity, Lachy walks us through the process, how he came up with the name for Folly’s, and how he gets the balance right between giving the punters what they want, and delighting them with something they didn’t know they were after.

Sam Bygrave: For people who haven’t been here yet, what is this place? What’s the elevator pitch for it?

Lachy Sturrock: So just your local neighboUrhood sort of bar and bistro. A bit more European influence, but just like a nice casual, vibey bar up front and then, a bit more elevated casual bistro at the back.

You used to be the group bars manager for Applejack hospitality.


So you had a whole bunch of venues you looked after there. This is your first venue. What’s that transition been like?

Hectic. Really hectic. At Applejack I had, it got up to eight venues and you know, each venue had maybe 10 bartenders and I had a bar manager in every venue and we had two cafes as well. So overseeing the beverage program for that was quite intense. But it was a Monday to Friday job for the most part.

Which was good with a young family. Work was really hectic during the day. And then it, I had my nights at home with the family, which is cool.

The bar at Folly's. Photo: Steven Woodburn/Supplied
The bar at Folly's. Photo: Steven Woodburn/Supplied

And then this one [Folly’s], nine to five so much?

This one? Opposite. It’s basically six days a week at the moment. And a lot of long days. You know, coming in here, getting set up, prepping, and then service from three o ‘clock until midnight.

Weekends, every weekend.

Wonderful. It’s quite a light, bright space kind of thing. How’d you go about designing the drinks list for this? Are you looking to support the restaurant side of things or is it a place you can come just have a drink?

Oh yeah, definitely. So you can just come up, pull up at the bar window. These bifolds open up, so it’s a really nice daytime drinking spot. So the list is fairly small and concise. You know, I’ve got six or seven cocktails and about 20-ish wines. And then we’ve got six beers on tap. So we’ve kind of got something for everybody. It’s that sort of menu that allows you to come in and just have a couple of schooners if that’s what you’re after. Or you can have a really nice bottle of wine over a meal.

Now with the cocktails, how’d you have to structure the list to suit this place in particular?

Once I understood the clientele, I needed to make sure that the list wasn’t too technical, crafty in a way.

Because before you opened it up as Folly’s, you ran it as the previous incarnation.

So we traded it for five months as the Public, which is what it was since 2015. And that was very much a pub. And they had a Margarita, Pornstar Martini, Mojito. Those were the cocktails that they had. I realised that that was the sort of cocktails that people were drinking in this area, but that’s not what I wanted to execute on this list.

So basically what we did was, we’ve kept the ethos of classics, but just mixed them up a little bit.

So you’re putting your spin on things?

Yeah, just simple stuff. We’re not re -writing the wheel, but it’s homemade ingredients like cordials or infusions. But the locals seem to think it’s the next big thing. They see a sous vide bath going on and they’re like, what is this?

The cocktail revival is coming to Cammeray. Finally.

Big time. They’re like, wow, you must know so much. It’s like, yeah, it’s huge.

How did you go about that balance of getting it right for the locals, but also putting in things that you want to have your own authorship over and the styles of drink that you want to put out there? How do you get that feedback loop right?

Yeah, it’s been pretty tough. I guess the benefit of trading this place for five months meant that I could get a lot of buy in from locals. Because I was here every day on the tools, I was pretty open with the locals as to what our plan was. Just so I could gauge their interest or how they would feel about it. Like when we first looked at the site, I was thinking restaurant the entire way, two beers on tap, huge wine program. But then after understanding the clientele and the bustling bar at the front, I knew that I needed to flip it a little bit.

So now there’s six beers on tap. We offer schooners and pints. We’ve got Guinness on tap. We kept Carlton. There’s those sort of things that I needed to sit back and assess. Which is why I also kept the cocktail list quite small, but still interesting enough. And then we’ve managed to get a lot more locals that never came here as well, which is cool.

It is a locals’ place, but it’s just outside the city, right?


That traffic light there takes you to the city and you’re in there.


How big a difference is the clientele from the city with that in mind?

Pretty big. It’s pretty big.

Not just a little bit.

No, it’s pretty big. This is a big family neighbourhood. So we get a lot of those younger families or younger couples that have moved here, you know, bought their first home or apartment. But then we’ve got a lot of retirees. So it’s a serious mix of demographic. But we do get a lot of people that work in the city that might live in Northbridge or Castlecrag and they stop here at the bus stop, come in for a couple of beers on the way home and then keep going.

Did you think about the cocktails in terms of pairing with the food at all? Or is that more the wine domain?

More so the wine. I mean definitely looked at the cocktail list based on the season and sort of the style of venue. The feel of the venue is very European wine bar. Yeah. So we’ve got a light Spritz on the menu, got a couple of carbonated cocktails — kept it nice and crisp and light. But then we also lent into some after dinner, heavier style drinks as well.

Everything I’m using is mostly Australian as well.

Is that important for you to use as many Aussie things as possible?

Yeah, I liked it just because coming from a group with group contracts and that sort of thing, this was my first chance to be like, I’m not going to sign a well contract.

Not yet.

Correct, money talks. But yeah, it just gave me an opportunity to start using some of the products that I couldn’t use before, bound by a contract and cocktai list pouring agreements.

Can you tell us about the name Folly’s? Where did that come from? It’s kind of old worldy, a throwback.

Yeah, that’s the idea of it. We wanted something that felt like it was owned and had been here for a long time. You know, we loved Epoque back in the day when it was here.

**That was a Belgian beer bar that I remember going to when I was very young. That was one of the first Belgian beer bars in the city?

It started here and then the previous owner, he opened two in the city and then expanded quite quickly. But a lot of locals come here and they always say... I remember coming here at the Epoque and I’m like, yep — so does everybody else.

That’s the first thing I said when I walked in.

With the name Folly’s, we’re looking at the area and understanding the different landmarks and trying to just link the venue to the area. Because, you know, trading this for five months, everyone in Cammeray is so proud to be from Cammeray.

Folly’s is actually a reference to Folly Point, which is the piece of land or water down inbetween Neutral Bay and Cammeray. I just kind of like that name. I thought that was a bit long. So we figured, you know, shortening it and pluralling it makes it feel like it’s somebody’s.

How long did all the creative ideas and the concept for the name of the venue and the cocktail list and everything take? What was the process for that?

Took forever, honestly. As soon as we decided, my business partner Sam and I, as soon as we decided we were gonna do it, that’s when my brain just went crazy, into overdrive. So I had a list of 15 names that I just threw out, I’d wake up in the middle of the night and be like, yep, that sounds sick. Let’s put that down.

And then in terms of the cocktail list, that didn’t take as long because working at Applejack, overseeing all those venues, I had a massive list of cocktails that I had planned to put into a venue or had an idea that didn’t quite work out. So I just tweaked. That was quite easy at the end.

The name was really tricky. And then in terms of decor, I always had this vision. The things that we loved about Epoque, we brought back, but in a new way. So, you know, Epoque had the gantry with the glasses hanging, but they were all beer glasses at that stage — they’re all wine glasses now. The divide [along the room] is what Epoque had as well. And then they had the seating in the back. So we wanted to bring all of that back, but do it in our own way.

How would you describe the aesthetic? Because it’s kind of European but the timbers feel more Australian.

Yeah the timbers are a throwback to Epoque and then it’s got the European feel, I guess to me that is all the wine bottles, the glassware, the leather couches — that’s the European element.

We ripped [the bar] back because Epoque had this really nice marble bar top and we were hoping it was under there, but it wasn’t. But then we’ve gone with this, but it was super important to me to have a very deep bar top because I want customers to be able to eat here, drink here and feel comfortable like we are right now.
And not feel like we’re in the way of the bartender and the bartender not to feel awkward making drinks.