The popularity of natural wine is on the rise in Sydney, so when we chatted to Katrina Birchmeier and Mike Bennie about why people are loving low intervention, organic and biodynamic wines they also told us their favourit Sydney spots to drink the good stuff.
We’re torn about this joint. Is it a bar, or is it a restaurant? The food's so good, you wouldn't come in and not eat. But the drinks list is so strong and the vibe so chill that it feels like a bar. So, like 10 William Street, Monopole and the Paddington before it, we're calling it: Bar Brosé is both. There are three different rooms in which to dine, but it’s the back room that feels the most like a drinking haunt with a long, marble bar, light-rimmed mirrors and a glass-walled private dining area at the back.And a note on that – with sommelier and former co-owner of Tasmania’s Garagistes, Katrina Birchmeier, running the wine here, the list is right on the money, with a strong focus on natural drops. Frederick Stevenson’s funky, super juicy 2015 ‘Dry Red’ pairs beautifully with crisped-up pillows of gnocchi tossed with slices of lap cheong sausage.
You know what you need to accompany that fresh and fruity glass of Xavier fiano from Heathcote? A soft, hot block of haloumi and tapioca, fried a golden brown and topped with XO sauce to deliver a salty, spicy sucker punch, with a savoury double tap from a light snow of grated pecorino. At 10 William Street, these “dadinho” take the Brazilian peanut candy of the same name and reimagine it as a savoury bar snack with Chinese and Italian flavours. We have the inventiveness of Luke Burgess to thank for this freaky-delicious treat. After he closed his famed Hobart restaurant Garagistes earlier this year there were guest appearances and collaborations for the talented chef, but now he is settled behind the burners at this compact Paddington wine bar.
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. Or if you like a straight shooter, go for the light, acidic Bourgogne Aligoté from Burgundy or a glass of the juicy Californian carignan from Broc Cellars. Or better still, ignore us and place yourself squarely in the hands of your bartender who will steer you to your new favourite in no time.
They’ve taken the idea of 'humble pub as a blank canvas' very literally at the new look Dolphin on Crown Street. The old corner boozer has had an extreme makeover, and it’s fairy god-parents are an impressive rollcall of Sydney hospo identities. Maurice Terzini has enlisted his crack team from Icebergs Dining Room and Bar for the aspirational project, including Lenny Opai on cocktail duty and chef Monty Koludrovic overseeing things in the kitchen. Plus they’ve got famed Sydney sommelier James Hird (ex-Wine Library) taking care of wine procurement. Lucky too, because not only does the transformed Dolphin boast a buzzy public bar, dining room and open air terrace, it also has a wine room and salumeria. Generally we hate the phrase “something for everyone” but they’ve certainly given being a one-stop shop a red-hot go at this new venture.
It’s entirely likely that Mary’s is more famous as a burger place than as a bar. People queue for up to an hour just to get in the front door of this slightly scuzzy boozer with a penchant for Slaytanic font (yes, there is a font inspired by the 1980s thrash metal band). Of course only the uninitiated don’t know that there’s often a secondary queue up the stairs for a table on the mezzanine. People really love Mary’s burgers. But those who look beyond the burger buns are rewarded with a kickass bar you’ll want to linger in. Painted along the back wall in huge script is the full bar menu. There are ten cocktails, ten wines by the glass, but it's the secret wine list by the bottle you'll want to have a gander at.
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. Loosely speaking, the people at the tables are here to eat and the people lining the gleaming black bar are here to take a swing at the impressive wine list. If you’re unsure about this whole biodynamic caper, a super fresh glass of the Mas d’Espanet Eolienne grenache blanc is the gateway wine that’ll convert you. There’ll be no complaints about the sour cherry lift in a nebbiolo from Piedmont’s Bruno Rocca, either. There’s no denying you could spend some serious cash here. The menu criss-crosses the globe like a twenty-something student, but one with really excellent taste, and so not much by the glass sneaks under ten dollars ($15 is about the average).
Fratelli Paradiso is the Potts Point restaurant that boasts a full house rain, hail or shine, excellent service and a super-interesting wine list. Risotto all’Ametriciana sees pearly, round little grains of rice cooked al dente with a chilli, fresh marjoram, fine shavings of Parmesan and thin stubs of pancetta, spread out in a thin layer over a shallow dish. They serve it, you eat it everybody’s happy. (Try it with a glass of nero d‘avola from star Sicilian natural wine makers Occhipinti, or a weird-arse organic spelt beer). It’s the offer-low-deliver-high attitude that sets this restaurant apart, and it’s what keeps folks coming back. The menu doesn’t really veer from the Frat Paz staples (individual lasagne, calamari fritti, bresaola) but that doesn’t really matter – the baseline here is quality.
Who is making natural wine?
Natural winemakers to look out for
Ngeringa Estate, Mount Barker Summit SA
Jauma, Adelaide Hills SA
Blind Corner, Margaret River WA
Latta Vino, Coghills Creek VIC
Eastern Peake, Coghills Creek VIC
Stefano Lubiana Wines, Granton TAS
Sorrenburg Vineyard, Beechworth VIC
Cobaw Ridge Winery, East Pastoria VIC