In the mood for love: 10 romantic wine bars in Sydney

Romance at Ragazzi.
Romance at Ragazzi. Photo: Edwina Pickles

There's nothing a glass of wine and a plate of really good snacks can't fix, including a forgotten Valentine's Day present. Celebrate the Hallmark holiday (or book a table for your bestie for Galentine's day) at some of our favourite cosy wine bars across the city.

Mimi's opens at Coogee Pavilion (Merivale)
Chef Jordan Toft
Pix: Steve Woodburn

Una Mas means "one more" (place for vino). Photo: Steve Woodburn

Una Mas

Una Mas is beautiful classroom-sized bar where house-made charcuterie swings above bowls of fresh peaches and handsome earthenware frames an island kitchen. Luxe bodega vibes are enhanced by natural light and a walnut-brown corner banquette is the most relaxed spot to sink chilled red and cop a sea breeze since Sean's Panaroma. Tapas-style snacks burst with sun-kissed flavours, such as Italian buffalo mozzarella served on lemon leaves with the perfume of a holiday in Cinque Terre.

Go-to dish: Order the house charcuterie to get the party started.

Coogee Pavilion, middle level, 130A Beach Street, Coogee, merivale.com

Good Food. Terry Durack review at Ragazzi in Angel Place.  Cavatelli, pork and fennel sausage, pipis. Photo: Edwina Pickles. taken on 1Nov 2019

Hand-rolled cavatelli, the dish to win hearts at Ragazzi. Photo: Edwina Pickles

Ragazzi

A plate of the plump, salty Olasagasti Cantabrian anchovy on warm Iggy's sourdough, slathered with a drippingly rich, whippy chive butter, paired with the crisp crackers of pasta fritta tiled with glistening tuna crudo – that's true love. The shortish menu changes daily, but pasta is the standout, house-made and truly al dente in a way that makes you realise that the right texture is as much about the making and the drying, as the cooking. Best is cavatelli (small ribbed shells) tossed with a pink rubble of coarse pork and fennel sausage and just-opened pipis in their shells, the surf-and-turf sweetness reminiscent of Portuguese pork and clams. There's enough here to make Ragazzi good for a working lunch or playful dinner anyway, but add the heart, soul and seasonal commitment of a bloody good young chef in Scott Williams (formerly MoVida Sydney and Bacco), and it's suddenly way more than just a wine bar.

Go-to dish: Order the cavatelli with pork and fennel sausage and pipis.

Shop 3, 2-12 Angel Place, Sydney, ragazziwineandpasta.com

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Good Food. Terry Durack review. 10 William Street Paddington.   3. Flan vermouth. 14th March 2019. Photo: Edwina Pickles.

Say it with flan, specifically the vermouth-drizzled flan at 10 William Street. Photo: Edwina Pickles

10 William Street

The moody lighting in this hole-in-the-wall sets the scene for romance, but the real appeal is in the kitchen. Since the Fratelli Paradiso team opened this crazily popular wine bar in 2011, its kitchen has flaunted high-profile chefs, from Dan Pepperell (Alberto's Lounge) to today's Trish Greentree, fresh from Dan Hunter's Brae in Birregurra. There's a refreshing lack of hype to her short and seasonal menu, in keeping with the fresh, natural, serendipitous wines on the blackboard. Long-stemmed, purplette onions rest on spicy 'nduja hummus. Halved, ripe figs are cloaked in a thin veil of prosciutto, then grill-warmed until plump and juicy. House-made strozzapreti is coated in a velvety green sauce of pistachio pesto and zucchini, the lot covered in crunchy pangrattato. This is thoughtful, refreshing, minimal-intervention cooking from an intuitive chef.

Go-to dish: Oh, the flan. A darkly bitter, sweet, and sharp vermouth syrup pools into the richly eggy, moulded cream.

10 William Street, Paddington, 10williamst.com.au

The flaming chorizo is soaked in sherry.

Bibo's chorizo will set hearts aflame. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Bibo

There's a lot to love here at this Double Bay wine bar, where what's in the glass is only the tip of the iceberg. Here, they celebrate the grape with a carefully curated list that's diverse yet approachable, delivered with warmth from well-versed staff. Chef and restaurateur Jose Silva serves authentic Portuguese flavours from the signature flaming chorizo to Portuguese custard tarts care of Silva's bakery, Sweet Belem. Runner bean fritters are light and crisp, and while raw hiramasa kingfish is super-fresh, the flavour is dominated by a sour cherry and chive dressing. Lamb ribs are unctuous, with a balancing acid hit from crisp pickles. Whole charred green onions drape over carrots with cumin on a cloud-like pool of white soy milk and carrot emulsion. Baby turnips, deep-fried leaves and charred fennel are the perfect foil for a pressed square of pork belly. Though you may be tempted by a special of glazed figs, that custard tart is a must.

Go-to dish: The chorizo, purely because it's on fire, and when it arrives you can say "ooooooh".

7 Bay Street, Double Bay, bibowinebar.com.au

Row row row your boat: The roe boat at Dear Sainte Eloise in Potts Point is a two-bite win.

The roe boat at Dear Sainte Eloise is a two-bite win. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Dear Sainte Eloise

Making good life decisions starts with drinking good wine. And there are few better places in Sydney to do that than here on Llankelly Place. When one of the insightful waitstaff delivers a glass of deliciously complex grechetto from Umbria, Italy, the sentiment is confirmed. This is a bar for adults, people who want to learn something about wine, or who just want to throw back some tasty vino and eat food that stands up to the exciting, intelligent 300-bottle-plus wine list. There's the malloreddus (Sardinian gnocchi), with creamed corn and 'nduja – much like fancy mac 'n' cheese – or roast potato cups filled with salmon roe. Those are delightful bursts of salty goodness that seem to be made to eat with the entire wine list. If you can't get a table here, seek out the sister venue – Love, Tilly Devine.

Go-to dish: Finish the night with chocolate mousse, cherries and honeycomb paired with a zesty, minimum-intervention champagne to reawaken your palate.

Shop 5, 29 Orwell Street, Potts Point, dearsainteeloise.com

Poly is a new subterranean walk-in wine bar in Surry Hills Paramount House Hotel complex, opened by Ester chef/owner, Mat Lindsay. Photographed is the Queen of puddings. Photo Jessica Hromas

Order the Queen of Puddings for your queen at Poly. Photo: Jessica Hromas

Poly

There's plenty to love here, and plenty of love to go around. Start with a plate of raw things: mariposa plum, zucchini flowers and breakfast radish served with a shallow dish of thick labne and a little salt. There's no faulting the tender, beautifully smoky calamari, doused in shavings of cured egg yolk. Nor the platter of shishito and padron peppers, blistered and blackened and crusted in salt. Out of the smaller snacks (you could easily order just one or two if you're flying by for a plate and a glass), it's the beef tartare that takes the prize – the highly seasoned raw beef wears a crest of raw onion on deeply charred sourdough and tastes like the best-laid memories of an old-school supreme pizza.

Go-to dish: The blood pie is a tennis ball of earthy black pudding wrapped in dark, malty rough-puff pastry, accompanied with splodges of mustard, and a frizz of herbs. Ridiculously good.

74-76 Commonwealth Street, Surry Hills, polysurryhills.com.au

GOOD FOOD: Ode Bar, 251 Bondi Road, Bondi. 24th August 2018, Photo: Wolter Peeters, The Sydney Morning Herald.

Mood lighting at Bondi bar Ode. Photo: Wolter Peeters

Ode

Is it a wine bar with food or a restaurant with wine? It's a question that Sydney has been asking a lot lately. The answer doesn't really matter because however you play it at this comfortable, lively neighbourhood joint, you'll leave satisfied. Ode has an eclectic fitout that perfectly reflects the guys running it and rides the minimal intervention vino craze well. It's an always-changing, wide-reaching list that's confidently assembled by people who know their stuff. It would be wise to leave the car at home. Order the smoked mussels on toast – it's been a constant since opening, and once you bite into the charred, garlicky bread topped with aioli and plump shellfish you'll understand why. It's done on the robata grill, along with the whiting served with a generously seasoned salsa verde.

Go-to dish: Finish with something sweet, a delightfully creamy mascarpone that's served with roast blood plums does the trick.

251 Bondi Road, Bondi, odebar.com

The rhum baba comes with a pour yourself bottle of Bundaberg.

The rhum baba at Continental Deli comes with a pour yourself bottle of Bundaberg. Photo: Christopher Pearce

Continental Deli

A picture-and-palate-perfect snack built from olive, anchovy, lemon and sweet guindilla pepper is the star dish of this wine bar. Just ask for a Gilda or three, like it says on the menu, and avoid food envy at the same time by snatching a serve of briny, tropical prawns laced with lardo, lime and coconut. Whether seated upstairs in the dining room (with, admittedly, a little more elbow room) or down, the impossibly creamy tartare with gaufrette potatoes is non-negotiable. Pleasingly, even the modest end of the menu delivers with a sweet and nutty local prosciutto melting away to nothing, leaving only the desire to head deeper into the list. Booze is a highlight, the wine list runs from South American and Italian thoroughbreds to South Australian house wines, including a zesty, juicy Clare Valley riesling. But give in to curiosity and finish with Neapoli-tin gelato, canned onsite.

Go-to dish: Share the rhum baba à la tiramisu, a perfect dessert for two.

210 Australia Street, Newtown, continentaldelicatessen.com.au

 Lunch at Monopole in Potts Point, Sydney

Wine and dine at Monopole. Photo: Fiona Morris

Monopole

All things are possible at Monopole. Swing by for a snack and a spritz while LCD Soundsystem plays at a respectable level, gently muffled by the charcoal waffling that keeps all the noise to a convivial buzz. For that purpose, order the just-warmed through mackerel on chervil-buttered toast. Or go all the way with slices of rare kangaroo loin with the bittersweetness of rosella flowers and the rich crunch of toasted hazelnuts, finished with a vincotto dressing. And if that doesn't get you over the line, smashed potatoes covered in nori butter and perfumed with lemon oil should. Still need convincing? The wine styling good times provided by sommelier and manager Glenn Goodwin will be a lock.

Go-to dish: Cured, poached, smoked and (eventually) fried duck is dressed in smoked cherry oil that lends sweetness and oomph.

71A Macleay Street, Potts Point, monopolesydney.com

Flathead in kataifi pastry, with nori  seaweed, peas, and grapefruit and oyster mayonnaise.

Flathead in kataifi pastry, with nori, peas, and grapefruit and oyster mayonnaise – a dish as complex as your partner. Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

Annata

Like a lot of dining these days, snacks are where it's at. Scoop up thick, cold manchego custard with deep-fried onion petals for the fanciest cheese and onion chips you'll ever eat. Watch fusion work its magic in mouthfuls of rich confit duck, sweet char siu and peppery shiso or the tandoori lamb skewer with fluffy naan and garlicky toum. The menu proper has fresh takes on old favourites. Tartare uses rosé veal and egg jam rather than a traditional yolk, as well as solid, classic cooking in a wagyu bavette with jus and mustard. It's worth popping in every month for the ever-changing, by-the-glass offerings. Make friends with a minerally Slovenian ribolla dialla, discover a flooral dafnios vidiano from Crete or enjoy more familiar grapes such as a silky Colome Estate malbec from Argentina. Work your way through the list, team them with those punchy bites and you'll leave happy.

Go-to dish: The chef has such a good touch with seafood you'd be mad not to go for the flathead: the fillet is rolled in nori seaweed and kataifi pastry like a slender spring roll, deep-fried until crisp and teamed with fresh peas, baby fennel and a rich, smooth grapefruit and oyster mayonnaise.

69 Willoughby Road, Crows Nest, annatasydney.com

The Good Food Guide 2020 is available now from newsagencies and bookstores, and via thestore.com.au/gfg20, $29.99 with free shipping.