Lock us in this little Italian wine bar and throw away the key, please!
When we were young we used to dream of being stuck inside a department store overnight, free to jump on the display beds, try on the furs and spritz all the perfumes. Now we’d prefer to be locked in 121 BC, a Surry Hills enoteca where we could go wild with biodynamic wines and tasty snacks with no supervision.
All we ever want to do is while away the hours with an orange wine from winemaker Damijan Podversic of Friuli in Northeastern Italy. The fruit perfume suggests a sweet treat, but the flavour spins on a dime to deliver an elegant clean finish. It’s a hairpin turn your palate will want to do again and again.
A round of freshly shucked oysters is a mere pit stop on your vinous voyage that picks back up with a glass of the fiano from Carbone, where they grow their vines in the rich, volcanic soils of Basilicata down around the ankle of Italy’s boot.
The problem with introducing anyone to this excellent wine enclave is that it increases the competition for the 24 seats around the big central table. It’s prime date territory. Perching alongside each other in the low light you can rub knees and whisper sweet nothings while your bartender takes you on a magical mystery tour of artisan, low-intervention and sustainably made Italian wines that will have you booking an international holiday after the first round. 121 BC is for lovers.
They pump out some impressive eats from a tiny kitchen here, and the menu changes with the season and the wine list. Start with soft ribbons of the daily cured meat followed by fresh ravioli, or maybe it’s gnocchi on your visit. There’s always a distant relation of bruschetta on the menu, or you can go big with dishes like skirt steak with borlotti beans or balsamic pork ribs.
If dinner is definitely part of the plan, it’s worth booking. This little bar sits just around the corner from its sister venue Vini, plus MoVida and Muum Maam, so people are always on the hunt for a free seat in this particularly delicious pocket of Surry Hills.
121 BC feels like a special occasion bar, but you’ll want it to be your regular. If you’re flying solo it’s even a brilliant place for some alone time with wine – and every visit is an education. When your only homework is grabbing a bottle for further research from the shop next door, you’ll never want to graduate.