Love, Tilly Devine review

Love, Tilly Devine in Darlinghurst.
Love, Tilly Devine in Darlinghurst.  Photo: Dominic Lorrimer

91 Crown St Darlinghurst, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Mon-Sat 5pm-midnight; Sun 4pm-10pm
Features Bar, Licensed
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Phone 02 9326 9297

Paul Kelly isn't far wrong when he sings on From St Kilda to Kings Cross that he would trade all of Sydney Harbour "for that one sweet promenade". Melbourne and St Kilda are very nice places with very nice spots to drink wine. There's Laneway Bars™, midnight spaghetti and diners serving duck heart yakitori around the clock. But, lock-out laws or not, I'd give Paul all of Melbourne's jaffle-slinging gin joints for a lazy afternoon at Love, Tilly Devine.

Love, Tilly has been a national treasure since it opened in the old Best Cellars stockroom in 2010. A patchwork of old bricks, hanging pots, drying flowers, pokey corners and a fair bit of cheese means you can almost imagine yourself in the kind of European tavern frequented by waist-coated mountain men hawking pheasant meat. Wallpaper from native flora illustrator Adriana Picker reminds you that you're still very much in Sydney, however, as does come-one-come-all service and a wine list made up of more than 300 drops, 80 per cent of which are now Australian. Many bottles are priced south of $70, too. Double thumbs-up!

Sommelier Gabrielle Webster captained the good ship Tilly for the last few years with her partner Aren Edye in the kitchen. The couple left in October (thanks for the excellent times, legends) and co-owner Matt Swieboda is now back on the floor with partners Jasmin Natterer and Nathanial Hartwell. The trio alternate shifts between Love, Tilly and Dear Saint Eloise, the Potts Point wine bar they opened in May.

Love, Tilly Devine's rustic interior.
Love, Tilly Devine's rustic interior. Photo: Nikki To

The Love, Tilly wine list has always been a cracker, introducing Sydney to "natural" Australian wine and growing to incorporate left-field drops from Jura to Georgia. The Aussie wine industry's minimal interventionist movement, or the lo-fi movement ("call it whatever you like" says the wine list preamble) has matured in the most wonderful way since Love Tilly's early days, so what better time to relaunch the bar with a focus on Aussie producers?

Walls are blessed with portraits of Jasper Button (Commune of Buttons) and his Adelaide Hills mate, Taras Ochota (Ochota Barrels). Winemakers are listed next to their bottles, which means if you order a Tyrrell's 2000 Vat 1 Semillon ($211), you know to give thanks to Andrew Spinaze and Mark Richardson for creating a such well-structured expression of Hunter grapes.

Yes.Tyrells. It's beaut to see a wine bar focused on younger winemakers also listing classic bottles that made the Australian wine landscape the vibrant tapestry it is today. Not that you'll find any Mount Mary available by the glass, mind, but you might find a Les Fruits 2016 Occitan Grenache-Syrah ($15/$66) made with Barossa grapes by wine importer Tim Stock in the Adelaide Hills. It's an earthy, wild colt that's terrific with food.

LTD's mozzarella with dragoncello and tiny tomatoes.
LTD's mozzarella with dragoncello and tiny tomatoes.  

Dear Saint Eloise executive chef Ben Abiad is also sharing his time between venues and the short menu is full of fresh veg. Torn pucks of buffalo mozzarella spooned with dragoncello (tarragon salsa enhanced by red wine vinegar and anchovies) are scattered with tiny, happy tomatoes ($14). I think I'll rock the same combination with a sparkling red on Christmas morning. Slippery sheets of lasagne hold ricotta, eggplant and zucchini with a top blanket of oven-fired 'nduja bolognese ($20). Remove the spreadable sausage topping and the dish is vegetarian-friendly. Genius.

"She's somewhere in the city with a glass of wine in her hands," sings Paul Kelly on the album Nothing but a Dream, whingeing about a girl who won't return his calls. Well, Paul, if she likes thirst-quenching, fist-pumping Australian deliciousness, I know exactly where she'll be.   

If you only eat one thing: buffalo mozzarella with dragoncello and tiny tomatoes.

Les Fruits 2016 Occitan Grenache-Syrah.
Les Fruits 2016 Occitan Grenache-Syrah. Photo: Nikki To

If you only drink one thing: make sure it's from an Australian winemaker you're not too familiar with.

http://www.lovetillydevine.com/