When you book an AirBnB in Paris, you’d hope that there is also a little wine bar like Bar Clementine downstairs. In fact, the nighttime answer to Enrique Mendoza’s long-serving Pyrmont café Clementine’s has a fitout straight out of the European neighbourhood wine bar playbook. There’s the curved marble-topped bar, timber furniture in rich chestnut, a soft banquette curving around half the room, and lots of framed black-and-white bistro art on the walls. The soundtrack is Golden Age jazz and the staff wear white shirts, but the kind that say “hand-loomed in Normandy”, not “starched to within an inch of its life”
This new addition is hands down the most charming after-hours offering in Pyrmont, a suburb better known for big-business headquarters and late-night high-rolling at the casino. You can find thoughtful wine lists with a natural leaning in many bars across town these days, but this is the first one pouring an elegant Moondarra ‘Studebaker’ friulano and pinot grigio from Gippsland, Victoria (only the politest amount of skin contact for that fruit basket aroma; a dry, savouriness in the drinking) to this underserviced area of the inner city.
Unless you follow wine trends, you might not be on a first-name basis with the by-the-glass menu, but Mendoza makes no bones about the fact that he’s designing the wine list that he himself wants to drink, so he’s also the best person to walk you through your choices. He might recommend a Le Petit Mort pinot noir rosé from Queensland’s latest wine region on the Granite Belt. It looks dark and beguiling but lands with a light, fragrant step on your palate.
It’s all about the little details, like having the right glasses for the right wines; making your G&T out of both local gin and local tonic; and having a food menu that starts with the obvious (olives, parfait, nuts) but quickly ramps up into restaurant territory. There are simple pleasures in rigatoni dyed dark green with a pesto of cavolo nero and some gentle chilli heat, or more refined repast in fried fillets of Cone Bay barramundi with celeriac and crisp leaves of Brussels sprouts. Smart money says consider the $45 tasting menu, which gets you four courses plus snacks.
Bar Clementine is a very specific kind of wine bar. It’s not looking to cater to everyone – its brief is specific, exacting even. This is a place for a quiet date, a catch-up and a treat, or to unwind in a way Hemingway would have approved of. You wouldn’t go here to get the party started, and because it’s an intimate little venue at the distant end of Harris Street you might not cross town to drink here – but if you’re in the neighbourhood, this should be your final destination.