You can’t lob a decanter in Surry Hills without hitting a wine bar, and Glebe and Enmore cater generously to oenophiles. But head further west and it can start to become a long time between drinks. So imagine the joy a thirsty traveller feels when they stumble upon the gentle, golden glow of the Temperance Society, a new wine bar in Summer Hill.
You’ll find it set in an ancient row of Smith Street shopfronts boasting original leadlight window panes and auburn tiles, and on a Monday night you can hardly find an indoor perch – looks like there are plenty of night owls in this leafy suburb keen for after hours cavorting close to home.
It’s a simple operation. You can get a Young Henrys cider, a Rocks lager or an Ironbridge ale in a $5 pot, a $10 pint or a jug for $17. (Batch’s Brewing Co’s white ale is a little pricier.) If room temp is chilly enough for your tastes there are six reds (and just as many whites) by the glass that max out at $14 for a taste of Tasmania’s Glaetzer-Dixon pinot noir, which packs the fruit flavours of a wintry pie into your glass.
There are plenty of wine bars where ten bucks will barely buy you a scoop of olives, so hurry up and order a bowl of the Sicilians for $3.50 here before they adjust their pricing. While you’re at it jump on the opportunity to get a big hunk of cheddar with some tiny pickled onions, cornichons and bread for nine bucks. A serve of the rabbit terrine comes with wedges of pale green pickled tomatoes.
Downstairs there’s hardly room to spare so the décor is pared back to essential sitting and leaning posts and some jazzy velour wallpaper. Upstairs you can get really comfortable on a Chesterfield sofa or one of the prized pair of wicker armchairs that populate the library nook at the top of the staircase. In the collection we find Agatha Christie, back issues of National Geographic, and a copy of divisive '70s novel The Dice Man to while away the hours.
If you’re of a more social persuasion your chat can be had to a soundtrack of Alabama Shakes, the Black Keys and Bill Withers and your whisky sour will take a gently, gently approach instead of sucker punching you with lemon juice and a lug of Starward. Prime gateway cocktail material, right there.
Given they deal in liquor, we’re thinking the name points less to the historic American society of teetotallers and more to the virtue of moderation. This is not the place for Coyote Ugly-style tabletop raging, but it is a pleasing spot for a tipple and a snack – a place where a good book is as legitimate a drinking buddy as your neighbour. Perhaps they underestimated how much people wanted somewhere to go after dark, and even early in the week an extra set of hands behind the bar would speed things up considerably. Overall, though, this is a serious win for Summer Hill.