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.
It’s easy to make new friends and keep your old ones when your weekday happy hour includes $20 carafes of likeable wine, $15 glasses of very good Champagne and ten-buck serves of chicken liver parfait. And it’s a proper parfait, mind, perfectly molded and encased on all sides by jelly, served with spicy vinegared green peppers, pickles and Iggy’s bread. People have made an effort to get here as close to 4pm as possible to ensure they make the most of it, and we’re getting Friday afternoon vibes on a Tuesday thanks to a jukebox playlist of Eagles, Billy Joel, Fleetwood Mac and the Stones.
Once happy hour ends, you can still splash about in wine instead of water without blowing next week’s rent in the process. You can buy a bottle of Delinquente pet nat, the Tuff Nut or Weeping Juan, for $49. But if you wanted to you could order a $230 glass of the 2004 E Guigal Cote Rotie La Turque syrah viognier from the Rhone Valley. And if you want to blow your Powerball winnings on $1,500 bottles you can 100 per cent do that, too.
If you’ve decided to make a night of it, you can mosey through to the dining room for crab risotto, and intensely porky mac’n’cheese riched up with speck, or a cut of beef cooked slowly until soft and unctuous. You can dine at many speeds here.
Regulars take their wine seriously, which is why you can put your money where your sensitive palate is and request a mystery blind pour for $14 – if you guess the grape, country and region you get it free. Prefer to drink without having to think? This is a good place to do it. They’ve put a lot of care into a wine list with the same international pedigree of an Esperanto speaker. They’re keeping things clean, with not a lot of skin contact, and quite a lot from France and Italy.
But it’s the pricing that’ll keep surprising you. You expect to be able to run up a serious deficit in a wine bar, but you don’t expect that the same venue will cater so hospitably to those of less impressive means with a baker’s dozen on the list sliding in at under $60 a bottle. Lift your budget to $80 and the world’s your oyster, or take this opportunity for a taste of the rich list with their premium pours. A price tag of $50 a glass might seem exxy, but it’s nothing compared to the bottle price. It’s a very egalitarian approach to an exclusive realm, which is exactly what a good library should be.