It’s a wine bar with delicious eats. It’s a restaurant with delicious wine. It’s the new digs from Nick Hildebrandt, Brent Savage with some help from their favourite designer, Pascale Gomes McNabb. It’s a palate of grey felt, dark wood and tinkling glass. And while you wouldn’t accuse Monopole of being the Bentley with its pants down, it’s certainly a little looser and a little more casual than its older sister.
You might recognise McNabb’s handy work from Melbourne’s Cutler & Co and Cumulus Inc and the Bentley Bar and the new-look Claude’s in Sydney. She’s applied her polished aesthetic and love of funny-shaped incandescent globes to Monopole, which you’ll find on the old Sailors Thai site in Potts Point. While you can book for dinner, there’s a certain amount of drop-by here too.
If the bar’s not your friend (be prepared for the odd elbow-in-the-kidneys if you’re ring-side), go for the window seats that look out over Macleay Street. Behind the bar, there’s a glass case where chef-owner Brent Savage is curing a bunch of meats (duck ham, brisket, venison sausage and bresaola are served in wispy slices with a side of pickles). Or sit in front of the open kitchen (run day-to-day by chef Adam Wolfers) where you can order up index-finger-sized cobs of fresh, sweet corn still in their husks. Grilled scampi served with whipped hazelnut butter and finely grated fresh hazelnut is all juicy sweetness and pared-back, dried nuttiness.
It’s just a bummer there’s not a lot of bar snacking to be had. As much as we love the amaranth cooked down into a sort of risotto with tiny little eggplants, or the fall-apart slices of lamb shoulder with fresh ricotta and grilled green onions, we still can’t help hankering after a plate of chickpea chips from the Bentley’s old snack menu. This is Potts Point, a suburb famous for its one-plate-one-glass-and-move-on diners.
Still, Potts Point, that one glass of wine will most probably blow your mind. Here, as at the Bentley, the wine list is really, truly excellent. We want to spend as much time with it as possible. Happily, you can order by the glass ($8-$15) or the carafe ($25-$42) or just go straight to the Selosse – pioneers in biodynamic Champagne and well on the exxy side (they’re upwards of $440 a pop). And the team behind the bar – including owner/sommelier Nick Hildebrandt, business partner Glen Goodwin and manager Anthony Moore – are more than equipped to hit you with something interesting if ordering your own wine seems too much like hard work.
It could be as straightforward and delicious as a viognier from southern Rhône, or maybe it’ll be the crazy Lammershoek roulette blanc – an all-chips-on-white blend of chenin blanc, chardonnay, viognier and clairette blanche from South Africa. There are even a couple of interesting beers on tap, thanks to Pinchgut Brewing Company. They also have the mouth-puckeringly bitter Brooklyn Lager, plus good old Coopers Pale by the bottle.
Purely as a bar, this would be a five-star review. The wine list alone deserves a massive huzzah with a glass in each hand. Nick Hildebrandt has been running his one-man wine bar revolution long before Love Tilly Devine
, 121 BC
or the Wine Library
ever lit up our lives. But as a venue that isn’t keen to pitch itself in one camp or the other, we think there might be a bit of work ahead in terms of getting the right balance on the menu.
We don’t really mind either way – seeing Nick Hildebrandt pouring white Burgundy while wearing a T Shirt is enough for us. We’ll be back. A lot.