Sydney Grapevine August 2020

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Featuring: The Wine Library, Estate Coogee, Mary’s on Top…

THE Wine Library re-opened post-lockdown in early June and word spread like wildfire – by mouth and social media. We popped in soon after and the chic, welcoming space was packed. A Woollahra institution for over 10 years, longtime patrons were clearly in evidence and palpably happy to be back in their favourite watering hole.
The trio at the helm is as expert as they are consummate hosts. Matt Taylor-Watkins earned his stripes at Monopole, Tetsuya’s and The Bentley Restaurant and Bar. Sam Jones and Tim Perlstone are alumni of Icebergs, Felix and Uccello.
Perlstone is in charge of the wine list. A multi-award-winning sommelier, he has participated in key competitions such as the Sommelier of the Year award and the Chaines des Rotisseurs Jeune Sommelier competition. Currently studying for a Master Sommelier qualification with the Court of Master Sommeliers, Perlstone will join distinguished company. Only 240 candidates worldwide have earned the prestigious title over the past 40 years.
Diners can enjoy their favourite tipples on the premises or buy them in the bottle shop to enjoy at home. There are over 60 pouring wines, including a 2017 Commune of Buttons Birds Share Pinot Noir from the Adelaide Hills and rare offerings such as a 1948 Primitivo Quiles Fondillon Gran Reserva Monastrell from Alicante, described as a combination of “sweet caramelised fruit with raisins, dates and bee propolis”.
Sparkling wines range from pet nats such as the 2017 Jean-Pierre Robinot Fettembulles Chenin Blanc from the Loire Valley to vintages like the 2000 Duval-Leroy Femme de Champagne. For those who are following recent advice from The New York Times to take a renewed look at riesling, there’s a swathe on offer from the Rheingau and Alsace to the Clare Valley. We made straight for the skin contact listings, which span the globe from Brian Gris Pinot Gris from Tasmania to the 2018 Testalonga El Bandito Skin Contact Chenin Blanc from South Africa.
You could visit The Wine Library 365 days a year and not repeat your wine, spirits or liquor orders. The food is worth the trip, too. A new menu skewers your attention on tapas-style offerings centred on the freshest Aussie produce. We kicked off with Sydney rock oysters – a succulent treat after months of home-cooking and takeaways. Other starters include gruyere croquettes and Pioik sourdough with olive oil.
A variety of small plates is next on the tightly edited list and be sure to make the potato dumplings, romesco, charred onions and lardons part of your selection. The chicken liver parfait and burrata with roast capsicum were also doing a brisk trade on the night of our visit. Ditto the Jerusalem artichokes, black garlic, horseradish and spiced cashews.
Charcuterie and artisanal cheeses are the other two headline categories and standouts are the wagyu bresaola and fennel and garlic salami. Charltons Choice buffalo blue from Gippsland and a chocolate fudge torte with salted caramel and hazelnut praline cream brought our meal to a satisfying close.
But one of the best things about The Wine Library’s back-to-business approach is the strong support for providores, cheesemakers and winemakers nationwide. The Wine Library, 18 Oxford Street, Woollahra. Phone (02) 9368 7484.

There’s nothing bijou about Estate Coogee, a three venue-in-one property tucked inside the Coogee Crowne Plaza hotel, following its multi-million-dollar renovation. The brainchild of chef and creative director, Matthew Butcher, who has worked with Gordon Ramsay and Shannon Bennett of Melbourne’s Vue de Monde, Estate Coogee caters to all of the local demographics.
Beachgoers can maintain the laidback vibe in the Terrace, an outdoor space dishing up lobster rolls, waffle fries and crab sandwiches and Aussie craft beers and wines from a retro Airstream trailer. More substantial fare includes pork belly with salsa verde and Moreton Bay bugs. The upmarket surfie feeling is heightened by a profusion of plants and a screen showing endless shots of sunsets. The main dining room is simply called Kitchen and the upscale decor reflects the seafood focus of the menu. Listings change constantly but if the scampi risotto with avruga and lemon myrtle and Jack’s Creek wagyu, tuscan kale, burnt onion mustard and pickled tomatoes are on give them maximum consideration. Nostalgia with a twist is the main theme for desserts such as key lime cheesecake, creme fresh nitro and chocolate brownie, peanut butter ice-cream and raspberry gel.
The craze for Mexican spawned the Taqueria, Estate Coogee’s third dining space. The south of the border feel is reinforced by neon lighting, eye-popping paint and furnishings. The highlight is the soft shell tacos available in five varieties, including pork belly with tamarind glaze and grilled fish with chipotle mayo. The 25-strong tequila list is another good reason to drop by. Enjoy straight up or in a margarita sipped while contemplating the great beach views. Estate Coogee, 242 Arden St, Coogee. Phone (02) 9315 9179.
Mary’s Newtown has long been a favourite in my family because of its hard-to-beat burgers and fried chicken. Mary’s Pitt Street outlet recently closed, but co-owner Jake Smyth has moved back to the area where it all started – the Inner West – for Mary’s on Top in the historic Art Deco Lansdowne Hotel in Chippendale.
Smyth and business partner Kenny Graham opened the restaurant in the middle of winter to kickstart the pub’s business post-lockdown. Many of the uni students from nearby UTS, Notre Dame and the University of Sydney were still AWOL and the popular establishment was more enticing with a “name” eatery.
You enter the premises through a small door in Knox Street and climb a concrete staircase to the astro-turfed rooftop. The inner-city views across Newtown and Glebe make Mary’s on Top a recommended sunset viewing spot. All the favourite Mary’s staples have made the move, including the signature Mary’s burger, fried chicken with mash and gravy and a vegan cheeseburger for non-meat eaters.
There’s a distinct community feel in the process of ordering at the bar and waiting for your number to be called. A tiny bar serves canned beer (no taps) and a tight selection of wines. Mary’s on Top, 2-6 City Road, Chippendale. Visit www.marys69.com.