It’s not as if Potts Point wine bar Monopole needed a glow-up. The moodily lit perch for night owls from the deft hands of empire builders, chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt, had no shortage of fans. But by our metric, the new Monopole is the superior offering in many ways.
We’ve all spent more than enough time inside, so the fact that the windows that run the length of the new room on Curtin Place can be folded back to create an airy terrace feel is nothing but good news for the day trade. They’re here for a business lunch that’s a cut above, but not an excessive fiscal leap for the accounts department to approve later – a rump cap with sauce bordelaise sauce maxes out the price point at a modest $49.
That leaves a lot of fun and flavour hovering around the half-way mark, like a three-bite sweet white roll with chunks of tiger prawn playing the adjudicator in a tug of war between yuzu’s sharp citrus and mayo’s velvety embrace. Or maybe you fancy a trip to the Middle East with skewers of tender smoked pastrami, dried thyme and charred white onion. But as is often the case with talented chefs, the snack offerings are strong and far more creative than heftier mains. Take, for instance, a crisp brioche toast with piped comté custard, topped with pretty tendrils of chervil.
At night, when the brief is more wine bar than bistro, the small eats dress up for a date with a glass of something extremely likeable, like the WA Savagnan from Heretic, which is also an extremely affordable drop at $12 a glass. Its soft herbal texture gets along famously with a perfect trout rillet on a confit new potato raft bearing finger lime caviar like precious cargo. Even more so a seemingly weightless chicken liver parfait, in all its doily-esque glory, adorned with blood orange jelly and pops of colour from a medly of soft herbs. To this reviewers palate it might be a little heavy handed on the salt but the mousse-like texture cannot be faulted.
A few entrées are important here, on their own merits, and also because they prime you for the full throttle thrills of a dry-aged duck breast with orange glazed eschallots, some steamed spinach providing what respite they can. A subtler, but no less impressive force is at work in a generously portioned bowl of orecchiette, fragrant with green garlic, pangrattato and enriched with an egg yolk. Dessert is obviously a non-negotiable, and here is comes as a very pretty iceberg of puff pastry shards that secret away slivers of tender pear, a healthy dollop of truffled honey ice cream and an Olympic-sized swimming pool of truffled honey. A tasty finish.
The new Monopole is a streamlined, upgraded edition of its former self that is very clear about what lane it occupies in Sydney’s city scene. More light, slightly lower prices and a five-page wine menu focused on Australian and French wines means there’s a lot of fun to be had under $100 a bottle, but still plenty of showy labels if you’re setting your credit limits to ‘schmooze’.