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  1. Outside of new wine bar Vermuteria
    Photograph: Christopher Pearce
  2. Cured meats and peppers at Vermuteria
    Photograph: Christopher Pearce
  3. Dave Spanton, Michael Drescher, Michael Delany
    Photograph: Christopher PearceDave Spanton, Michael Drescher and Michael Delany

Time Out says

5 out of 5 stars

A taste of Spain in Kings Cross, Vermuteria is a love letter to old-school European wine and aperitivo bars

Deciphering how to say Vermuteria is about as difficult as defending against Sam Kerr. And we’re not the only ones who have found it challenging – the team posted a video on Instagram where they quizzed guests on how to say the name, with varying levels of success. When we visit on a Wednesday evening, it’s the second thing we ask our waiter. He answers with a warm, knowing smile: “Ver – mutt – err – ria.” Case closed. Now, we can focus on what matters most: drinking and eating.

Located on Kings Cross Road, Vermuteria has taken over the former Cafe Hernandez site, which operated there for 50 years as a Spanish café. Before that, the building was home to a Polish deli. With Vermuteria, owner Dave Spanton (the founder of Australian Bartender Magazine, and hole-in-the-wall nearby spot Piccolo Bar) wanted to pay homage to the space’s history. And he’s achieved that in spades.

Just like its sibling, Vermuteria is illuminated by neon-red lights, and, thankfully, it’s double the size. Everywhere you look there are vintage posters, black and white photographs and liquor bottles. One of Cafe Hernandez's signature artworks – an enormous painting of Count-Duke of Olivares on horseback – hangs on the wall. The space is kitschy, retro, and has as much charm as Matthew McConaughey’s character in How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days. Read: a lot.

Vermouth and sherry are the name of the game here, just like in Spain. Above the bar are two barrels holding vermouth, and there’s also one on tap: a Euro semi-dry blanco blend. We go for the latter. It comes out with ice, an olive and the slightest toffee-colour hint, with a ripe fruit aroma. It’s slightly dry, with some sweetness, and has a medium body. It’s a cracking way to kick things off, and we order another.

The food menu at Vermuteria covers the exact sort of numbers you want to snack on with drinks. Namely, things that are salty, vinegary, fatty and delicious. Think olives, crisps, plates of jamon and mortadella, tinned seafood (sardines, clams, anchovies) and a cheese plate from Penny’s Cheese Shop. There are also some more substantial plates, like LP’s chorizo hot dog and a four cheese toastie. Our mouth is watering just thinking about it.

We kick things off with Gildas, which come as a serve of two. The soft white anchovy, sharp guindilla pepper and meaty Silician olive, all held together by a stick, provides a whack of umami, and we silently file them under our death-row tapas.

Flaming red 'nduja is served in a ramekin with buttered toast and cornichons. We don’t hold back, spreading the spiced pork on thick, place a tiny pickle on top, and in it goes. Spiked with Calabrian chilies, the 'nduja has a nice kick, is laden with garlic and spice, and is deeply savoury, not to mention rich – though the vinegar adds reprieve. Before we know it the ramekin is empty. A healthy snack for one? Probably not. Extremely pleasurable? Absolutely.

There are six types of sherries on the menu, as well as cocktails, wine and beer. We go for a glass of La Goya Manzanilla sherry, which has been aged next to the sea in Andalucia. It’s sweet on the nose, bone-dry with a saline taste, and by now we’re definitely imagining we’re somewhere in Spain.

We pair our sherry with more carbs: toast topped with thinly spread creamy goat’s cheese spiked with herbaceous dill, and white anchovies that look like they are basking in the afternoon sun. Plus, a serve of guindilla peppers. Given we’re a salt and vinegar feind, this is great.

Throughout the evening we see Spanton – wearing his trademark Peaky Blinders-esk hat – welcoming guests, having a sip of his drink, running food. We notice the place starts to get busy, and soon enough he’s introducing a vermouth expert for a tasting session. We’re told they’re doing these throughout the year. How good. So too is Spanton’s evident warmth, expertise and hospitality.

At the back of the bar, there are vermouths and sherries, bartending books, pickles and more to purchase – a nod to the former deli.

Vermuteria is both a love letter to old-school European wine and aperitivo bars, and an homage to the places and people that have come before. Spanton has yet again created a spot which makes you feel good, serving things you want to drink and snack on time and time again. It’s a pocket of neon-red magic on an otherwise grey road, and one we’re looking forward to returning to soon.

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Avril Treasure
Written by
Avril Treasure


60 Kings Cross Rd
Kings Cros
View Website
Opening hours:
Wed-Thu 4-11pm; Fri-Sat 4pm-midnight
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