It was a miserably wet and rainy evening. And not even the normal type of rain, but the rain where there’s a slight breeze that blows it sideways so that no matter how you try and stay sheltered under your umbrella, at the very least the lower half of you is guaranteed to be drenched.
But Dancing Queen and I were long-overdue for a meet and with her sophisticated taste, I decided to chance upon a little wine bar I’ve been wanting to visit some time in The Rocks. It’s set in such a conspicuous location on George Street at the beginning of The Rocks precinct, yet its fairly drab and nondescript exterior gives nothing away.
Upon entry into the cosy bar, there’s wooden tables set near the main entry in twos and groups, and larger, roomier booths as you go further in towards the bar. The bar is furnished in shades of warm wood and deep blue, and topped up with a resplendent stuffed peacock on the furthest wall.
I start off the evening with a Bilpin Apple Cider ($9), which I’ve been excited to try since I missed out on sampling it the last time I was up in the Blue Mountains.
It’s a fairly crisp yet smooth-tasting cider with a strong flavour. It’s nice to know that there’s also no added sugar and that it’s gluten-free.
We select a number of ‘bites’ (tapas-style dishes) and settle in to enjoy our evening. There’s much to catch up on after more than four months of not seeing each other face-to-face.
Dancing Queen was feeling the need for chips, and we were reassured by a nearby table that the ‘chips’ were in fact more like wedges – which earned my seal of approval. The Hand Cut Chips with Roast Garlic Aioli ($8) arrived as a generous portion, with the wedges lovely and crunchy on the outside, and still soft and steamingly hot inside. While the aioli was a good, creamy consistency, it lacked garlic aroma and seemed to taste a little more like a mild mayonnaise.
The remainder of our tapas then all arrived at once.
The Grilled Flat Mushrooms with Lemon Thyme Ricotta & Hazelnut Vinaigrette ($16) were a little cold upon arrival and placed upon a rather sad, limp-looking salad. However the lemon thyme ricotta was a light and creamy addition to the grilled mushrooms, and the little morsels of roasted hazelnut were very aromatic.
I greatly enjoyed the Wagyu Bresaola with Goats Cheese, Drunken Figs & Micro-herbs ($19). These slices of cold, cured meat were perfect when you put a little of the goats cheese, figs and herbs into the middle and then rolled it up before devouring. This was probably my favourite dish of the evening.
The Grilled Lamb with Tapenade, Artichokes & Roast Lemon Aioli ($18) was a close second, with the lamb cooked to a tender medium, with the artichoke and peas lending it little pops of savoury flavour. The one let down was that the same aioli was used here again and thus it had that mayonnaise-quality that I couldn’t quite shake.
The Grilled Haloumi with Preserved Lemon Honey Dressing & Roast Tomatoes ($16) was probably one of the main let downs of the evening. The problem was really quite simple – the haloumi was over-cooked and over-salted. It had very squeaky texture to it and while the honey dressing was nice and sweet, it couldn’t save the overly-salty dish. The dish also lacked visual appeal with the rather tired looking vegetables topping it.
This is a cosy little bar that isn’t so well-known and so is a nice place to unwind and chat quietly, compared to many of the other more raucous bars populating The Rocks. While the food is a little hit and miss, I do think that I will return here to sample some other dishes and their extensive wine list.
The Russell Wine Bar
143A George Street,
The Rocks NSW 2000
(02) 9241 2999