Now in its 13th year running, this bottle shop, bar and restaurant is an early fixture of the Con Christopoulos’ culinary behemoth that has taken over the corner of Spring and Bourke Street.
Situated next to (and sharing a food menu with) the European, another Christopoulos enterprise, City Wine Shop is a cosy, intimate space with green-tiled walls, chalkboards displaying the daily specials and an entire floor-to-ceiling wall of bottles available to take home or drink in – but choose wisely, because corkage is $20.
There’s plenty of seating on the footpath outside, but given its proximity to the Princess Theatre and its scene-y reputation, it fills up fast even on cold winter nights. A seat at the bar is the next best thing, perfect for posting up with a plus-one or maybe a book. This is the sort of place you can go alone without feeling lonely.
Helpful (if a little bit brash), the waiters will likely have a chat and offer some guidance if you’re overwhelmed by the vast selection. While the menu has plenty of classic pours, there are a few wild cards on there – think earthy, amber wines from Georgia and dark, biodynamic reds from Austria. As for beers, the selection is a bit old-school with an emphasis on mainstream Aussie and European ales.
Food is solid, comes quick and includes all the classic wine bar bites – grilled saganaki with preserved wild figs, oysters raw or Rockefeller, bite-sized anchovy toast and caviar with cream and blinis. According to one team member, the cured kingfish, which is served swimming in a sea of oil topped with fennel and ginger, is the most popular dish. This checks out — if only there were some bread on the menu to mop it up.
For something more hearty, there’s a selection of mains including pasta marinara, a sizeable slow-roasted lamb shoulder designed to share at $82 and chicken schnitzel with vibrant, Italian-style slaw that’s gained its own cult following over the years.
City Wine Shop may not be as fresh and fun as some of its hot new competitors, but it’s earned its acclaim for a reason. The consistency, quality and hospitality are second to none.