71A MacLeay St Potts Point, NSW 2011
|Opening hours||L Sat-Sun; D Daily|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings, Long lunch, Romance-first date, Vegetarian friendly|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||02 9360 4410|
When was the last time you had a proper, sit-down, china-and-linen-napkins lunch? I can't remember, either. In between long weekend brunches and dinners that begin with afternoon drinks, lunch gets reduced to whatever's closest to the park, beach or school sports event.
Monopole is the second in the trio of eateries by Brent Savage and Nick Hildebrandt: the first, two-hatted Bentley Restaurant and Bar, is moving to the CBD Radisson Blu Hotel in December, while new bistro Yellow in Potts Point has just launched a few doors down from Monopole.
Ostensibly a wine bar, it's become known for its excellent wine list and a menu beyond the usual wine bar offerings. A few months ago it started offering a prix-fixe weekend menu, with two courses and sides for $38.
It's a hot Sunday when we arrive for lunch, stepping into a narrow, low-lit room. A long bar anchors the space, with diners able to sit on stools at the bar or at small tables lined up along a leather banquette.
It's dark and chic, designed by Pascale Gomes-McNabb (also the creative mind behind Bentley and Melbourne's Cumulus Inc), perfect for a moody wine bar in the evening, although it feels slightly odd at lunchtime on a bright Sydney spring weekend.
The set menu generally includes a roasted cut of meat with three side dishes and dessert. Today it's roast lamb shoulder. We turn our attention to the one thing from which we can pick and choose: that wine list. Given Monopole won Wine List of the Year at the 2014 Good Food Guide Awards, we're keen to give it the once over. It's mammoth, with more than 500 by the bottle and 30 by the glass or carafe.
The focus is on biodynamic and organic. Offerings by the glass are dominated by France and Italy, with nothing over $15. We choose the rich, aromatic Thick as Thieves 2012 chardonnay from the Yarra Valley, which suits the lamb perfectly.
To whet our appetite, we request a serve of Iggy's bread with Pepe Saya butter, $5 from the regular menu.
The lamb is simply presented, pink and tender and dressed in its juices.
The beautifully composed and deftly dressed salads elevate the meal to something special. Green romanesque cauliflower is served on a richly savoury white cauliflower cream, under crisp slices of pickled Jerusalem artichoke and shaved pecorino. Tiny green and red tomatoes, perfectly ripe, are diced and scattered over homemade ricotta with curls of shaved zucchini and basil cream. Baby cos leaves are tossed with crunchy toasts and a creamy, garlicky dressing.
Service is smooth and accommodating, and there's an element of surprise to the meal.
Dessert is listed as creamed rice with caramelised apple, but instead it's a delicate goat's curd marshmallow slice, with fragrant anise ice cream, blood orange and hazelnuts.
On another day the menu might include roast pork neck, broccoli, and nectarine with almond milk and raspberries, or roast veal rump, tomato salad, and caramelised pineapple with lime meringue and sorbet.
It's worth skipping brunch for.
Four stars (out of five)