Just because summer is over doesn't mean it's time to hibernate. Check out our five picks for a good plate of food and a glass of red or two.
by Erin Ogilvie
Bel & Brio: Barangaroo, Sydney
Opened in late 2016, Bel & Brio is not just a bar and restaurant: it also includes Coffee & Co, for breakfast and lunch; a grocer featuring basics as well as specialty products, called the Marketplace; The Farm on the Central Coast where they source most of their produce; and our personal favourite, Cellars, which is a 1900-bottle wine store, curated by Jon Osbeiston, ex-Ultimo Wine Centre. Located at the relatively new Barangaroo, it’s basically an 800-square-metre food-and-wine-lovers’ haven. The dining room has been designed to look like the great food halls of Europe, and you could comfortably spend a decadent evening here.
The website says the Bar & Dining kitchen has been inspired by “traditional cooking styles to create menus that are centred on authenticity, using quality ingredients.” The indulgent Italian-influenced cuisine includes handmade pappardelle with wagyu beef cheek ragout and bitter chocolate dust, hand cut chips with black truffle salsa and pecorino, and a Pumpkin Crème Brulee, which is the perfect excuse to eat dessert while still topping up your daily vegetable intake. A note on the menu from Executive Chef Andrea Assenza is a nice touch, talking about their farm’s 3000 happy hens and his team of “passionate advocates of freshness and seasonality”.
But the best bit is undoubtedly the wines. This 400-bottle list is frankly amazing, with plenty to excite and tantalise the palate. Jon has included a good local focus, backed with some strong imports. If you know your wines, you may want to arrive early so you can spend a decent amount of time perusing (and admiring) the list without ignoring your date. But if the tome intimidates you, simply give the Sommelier your budget and the style of wine you enjoy, then sit back and let them do their job. It’s a great opportunity to learn about new wines, regions or varieties, from a team who clearly know what they’re doing.
2KW Bar & Restaurant: CBD, Adelaide
Eight floors above the corner of King William Street and North Terrace, this rooftop bar looks over everything from the Adelaide Oval to the Town Hall and Botanic Gardens. The venue, which is only accessible by two separate lifts, was intended to create a reference point for Adelaide bars that would attract both locals and tourists. Offering both outdoor and indoor seating, and stylish cabanas perfect for settling in, they certainly seem to have achieved this. It gives you a unique sense of being far from the city while you’re right in the centre of it.
The website advertises that the heart of 2KW is “great food and serious booze.” Executive Chef Daniel Lawrence’s restaurant menu is based on quality produce cooked with respect and shared heartily among friends. Want something special? The signature dish is called “Crayfish Indulgence” and requires a day’s notice to order. On the flip side, the bar menu offers pizzas and nibbles that’d keep anyone happy when after-work drinks turn to dinner.
Speaking of drinks, 2KW has a good list of wine by the glass, with a focus on SA producers and a few imports for balance. They are one of the few venues around Adelaide that use Coravin, the technology that allows you to serve wine by the glass without opening the bottle (yes, really!). This gives you the opportunity to splash out and try something unique without having to re-mortgage the house to buy a bottle. Heading there for a special occasion with a group? Check out their small but concise selection of large format bottles. As they say: “We call it ‘our’ list but while you’re with us it’s yours.”
Harry and Frankie: Fitzroy, Melbourne
Harry and Frankie is a wine bar and shop, upstairs from The Rose Fitzroy. The popular pub offers the menu you’d expect from such a place (burgers, chicken parmigiana) but if you’re after something a little fancier – and quieter – you’ll want to be upstairs. With its clean, comfortable look, you know straight away you’re in a different world, and the walls lined with wine tell you what the priority is up here.
The small menu of food ranges from nibbles to larger dishes, designed to match but not overwhelm their impressive selection of wines: “Because food is often wine’s best mate”. Think salumi sliced to order, cheese platters, classic beer tartare, chicken and duck liver pate. Still hungry? Try “Today’s Toastie”, hanger steak with sweet potato, or Kentucky fried quail, all designed to share.
But, ultimately, Harry and Frankie isn’t about food, it’s about wine. But there’s no wine list here; you’re encouraged to select from their 250-bottle wine shop, and you can either take it away or pay $20 corkage to enjoy it up or downstairs. The system has been set up to encourage adventurousness: the wines are sold at retail prices and you’re surrounded by knowledgeable wine lovers to help you make the right choice. Owners Tom Hogan and John Tennent, who named the bar after John’s son and Tom’s daughter, have a long-standing relationship with wine and make a point of championing small Australian producers. In their words, “Harry & Frankie celebrates wine and the great people who grow and make it in an inclusive, unpretentious way.” With free corkage between 4-6pm Wednesday till Saturday and free wine tastings (known as Urban Cellar Door) every Wednesday from 6.30-8.30pm, this is the perfect place for the developing wine lover.
Long Chim: CBD, Perth
On 1 December 2015, the opening of Long Chim Perth marked the first time in 20 years that David Thompson had a restaurant in his home country. He’s since opened incarnations in both Sydney and Melbourne, which mimic the Perth venue’s graphic and grungy aesthetic. It’s loud and fun, perfect for a flavour-packed dinner with food-loving friends.
Thompson was quoted as saying that he wanted his restaurant “to be faithful to the streets, markets and, occasionally, gutters of Bangkok. It's not going to be gentrified cooking, but food that's as raw, rude and robust as what you'd find in Bangkok." As such, the menu isn’t for the faint-hearted: it’s spicy, smoky, and packed with chilli. Thompson has gone to great efforts to ensure your experience is authentically Thai, both in flavour and in produce.
With a chef this adept at the balance of flavour, it’s no surprise that the wine list has been designed as a perfect compliment to the menu. It includes lots of local and imported wines, with a focus on aromatic styles like Riesling and Gewürztraminer that pair well with spice. While most of the bottles sit around the $100 mark, or just below, there is the occasional superstar wine if you are looking to impress or want to drink something special.
Tipsy Bull: Braddon, Canberra
Like many of the venues on our list, Tipsy Bull’s philosophy is about sharing “good food and good times.” The bar and restaurant opened in February this year, and their website promotes their passion for food and drinks. The venue aesthetic reflects this: it’s well designed but restrained, so your dishes and cocktails stand out as the hero of your experience.
The seasonal menu is described as “Friendly Fine-ish Dining” and consists of simple but delicious share plates. It changes regularly, and as a result is fairly compact with a focus on Spanish and Mediterranean cuisine. Check out “Tipsy’s Favourites”: five courses chosen by the chef at $55/head.
They have a small and concise wine list, with plenty of brands that wine drinkers will recognise. While there are only a few by the glass offerings, all wines are reasonably priced, with no bottles over $100. Their spirits and cocktail menu has plenty to tempt you, including a DIY G&T list (containing four different tonics and countless gins) that is ideal for those who know exactly how they like it.