When you are greeted at the door by a woman with a headset and a clipboard on a Saturday afternoon, you know you’re not in Kansas anymore. The Winery, sister bar/restaurant to the original Gazebo Wine Garden in Elizabeth Bay, came into the world kicking and screaming for attention despite its semi-secluded location behind Thomas Dux on Crown Street, Surry Hills.
I came to the opening night of The Winery, greeted by Sydney’s shiny happy people, and somehow managed to get a cocktail, a table and a feed, all within a very respectable period of time. Unsure how this came about, my friends and I watched as literally hundreds of people waited and only occasionally actually got through the doors, and even more occasionally were seated and fed. This is how it goes at The Winery every weekend after 5pm. Luckily, today we’re greeted with a smile and with the flick of a ponytail we’re in the courtyard with a Blood Orange Bellini (prosecco, blood orange,vanilla, peach, really quite delicious) perusing the menu.
Elvis gazes up at you from the front, beckoning you in to view his wares. The first time I ate at The Winery I was disappointed to see the menu was identical to its Betty Bay counterpart, not because there was anything wrong with it, but because I had ordered every vegetarian option more times than I cared to recall and was looking for something new. This time is different. I am delighted to find the menu has had a complete makeover (this could have happened years ago as my Winery career had really involved French Martinis since then) and there are a range of mouth-watering selections to drool over.
Here for a light snack, we decide to share a couple of the vege options. The first thing that comes out is the Toasty Bread (Blistered mini vine tomatoes, marinated goat cheese & olive tapenade). Words cannot express how happy I am to see this little arrangement atop a wooden chopping board. The tomatoes are incredibly juicy and the skin is just starting to split from roasting. The goat cheese is full-flavoured and covered in oil and rosemary, and the olive tapenade is out of this world. I almost have to grab the board out of the waiter’s hands as she tries to take away what little is left of the cheese.
We have been very restrained in our ordering, and next comes the Minted Pea & Persian Feta Salad. With freshly shelled peas, snap peas, board beans and a divine honey dressing, this is the freshest, best quality produce I have had for ages.
I have to vacate the table to stop myself from following it up with a Double Chocolate Brownie with fairy floss & vanilla bean ice cream, something I just do not need after a healthy snack on a Saturday afternoon. We take a stroll around the place afterwards, which, in the light of day, always uncovers more wondrous decorations than in the sultry evening darkness. As part of Keystone Hospitality, also responsible for slightly more intense club locations such as Sugarmill and Kit and Kaboodle, both Gazebo and The Winery manage to maintain their individuality and charm while offering great food and an excellent selection of wines.
Various personal touches have gone into the furnishing of The Winery. There are gold trimmed Chesterfields and a stuffed peacock (I am hoping a zoo animal that has taken on a second life after a peaceful, natural death), as well as a small patch of grass which lives at the bar. It definitely has character, and if you imagine Alice and Dorothy merging their worlds I’d say The Winery would come somewhere in the middle. It isn’t my scene on a weekend night when the line often reaches back to Crown Street, but for a casual cocktail in the afternoon it really doesn’t get much better than this.
285A Crown Street Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9331 0833