Sydney wine bars for your hit list
You know what a guaranteed fun time used to be? Smashing wines and Italian snacks at 121 BC. You what’s still fun? Smashing a slightly more international wine list and snacks at Wyno, the same-same-but-different wine bar where 121BC used to be. The Porteno crew, whose Argentinean restaurant is on the adjoining street, took over the beloved wine bar and honestly, the only change is that there’s less Italian stuff on the menu.
Even though it was one of the early adopters in the small bar boom, Love Tilly Devine is no less popular today than it was four years ago – securing those window seats is a badge of honour not many have earned. This is a great place to let wine surprise you. Sure, that orange fiano from Cantina Giardino in Campania might smell like peaches, but the skin contact gives it a dry finish that feels like a delightful bait and switch with your tastebuds.
10 William Street is both a restaurant and a bar with a penchant for crazy, raw, wild and feral Italian wines. Your sommelier might pour you something like the exciting Cirelli trebbiano from Abbruzzo, or an almost rosé-like pinot grigio.
This is the kind of place that can turn your whole understanding of wine upside down by pouring you a Chilean skin-contact muscat that’s as savoury as an antipasto board. Behind the bar is a wall of fridges with small doors so that it resembles a 16-day advent calendar, but instead of shit chocolate you get a whole lot of crazy, interesting, fun and smashable wine.
Close quarters are helpful when you’re on a date, and sexy Italian wine bars don’t get much cosier than Ode. All that low, flattering light is like a real-world Instagram filter; the little round tables are so small you can interlock knees; and given they quite literally have wine on tap, a night here is a reliable recipe for romance.
Don’t kid yourself, just because it’s calling itself a bar doesn’t mean you’re not going to drop a chunk of cash grazing your way through the snacks menu. This is the kind of drinks list that will accomodate many return visits before you run out of interesting and delicious things to drink, moving comfortably across global vineyards with a natural bent but behind the bar there’s no evangelical posturing about it.
We’ve all been there – so hungry that you’ll offer your shoes, your bank balance or even your first born for a little snack and something to drink. And Dear Sainte Eloise gets it. Hell, they’ve named the new Potts Point wine bar for that moment of blood sugar crisis when George Orwell, while Down and Out in Paris and London, prayed to what he thought was a saint for a little supper. Luckily for you and your progeny, all you need is cash, and the makings of a perfect evening will wend their way to your wooden table top over the course of a very enjoyable few hours in this classically styled perch.
Johnny Fishbone has arrived on the site of defunct cocktail bar Hinky Dinks, and retro charm has given way to contemporary cool. This is a bar that is refined and sexy, but didn’t lose the fun in the refurb. It’s not just the drinks that impress us (but we’ll rave on those shortly). Everything is perfect, from the snack menu that demands an order of ‘one of everything’, to the photoshoot-worthy lighting and house party soundtrack.
Bibo has all the essential hallmarks of an upmarket Euro-style wine bar: it’s low lit, dark and looks like an old-world smoking room. If you just want a snifter of a millionaire’s life they also do museum wines by the glass so you can drop $48 on a 2005 Two Hands shiraz from McLaren Vale – just to see what it tastes like. Of course you’re not surprised that you can drop your whole paycheck on wine in Double Bay, but you can also sit all night long on $10-$12 glasses here, and use your extra money to spin out the evening with some bar snacks.
The line between restaurant and bar has gone from a little fuzzy to indistinct, and nowhere is this more so than at Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt’s Potts Point wine bar and restaurant, Monopole. You could pop in for a cheeky drink and end up eating the full tasting menu. You could opt for a quick supper that turns into rolling home heavy with biodynamic wines and light on cash. It all depends on what you’re in the mood for.
You know a suburb was clamouring for a wine bar when at 6.30pm on a Wednesday there’s hardly an empty seat in the house. Where’s Nick, Marrickville’s only wine bar, has been embraced by the swiftly gentrifying Inner West suburb with a fervour usually reserved for relatives thought to be lost at sea. Turns out the residents of 2204 are ready and willing to pull up a mismatched wooden dining chair, open their wallets and lob fistfuls of dollars over the bar in return for more glasses of the Other Right’s late year viognier, whimsically titled ‘Moments of Strange Magic’.
You know how the saying goes: if it ain’t broke then don’t mess with the system at a popular wine bar. For long-time fans of the Wine Library, this learned seat of good vines and snacks is sticking to its guns under the stewardship of new owners, chef Matt Taylor (ex-Bentley, ex-Monopole), sommelier Tim Perlstone (ex-Merivale) and Sam Jones (ex-Monopole). The room looks much the same and the bar is still the best place along Oxford Street for a deep dive with wine-loving bartenders.
With the right little bar in your neighbourhood, ‘me time’ can also be ‘wine time’, which is certainly the case for the three separate people having a quiet drink on their own at She Loves You, a 40-person bar in Newtown. The ace wine list that makes a lot more sense when you find out that one of the owners is also the sommelier at Billy Kwong. Otton wanted to move away from the rigidity of restaurant lists, so this is a good venue if you want to really discuss your choices before they open a bottle.