The Dolphin Wine Bar

The Dolphin Wine Bar
The Dolphin Wine Bar Photo: James Brickwood

412 Crown St Surry Hills, NSW 2010

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Opening hours Sat-Mon 11.30am-10pm; Tue-Fri 11.30am-midnight
Features Accepts bookings, Bar, Groups, Licensed, Pub dining, Gluten-free options, Vegetarian friendly, Wheelchair access
Prices Moderate (mains $20-$40)
Chef Monty Kaludrovic; Dan Medcalf
Payments eftpos, AMEX, Cash, Visa, Mastercard
Phone 02 9331 4800

There are a lot of things done right at the new-look Dolphin, now flying under the Maurice Terzini flag. And now the wine bar's swung open, there's a whole new series of reasons to drop all your cash here.

If you enjoyed (chef-turned-natural wine kingpin) James Hird's antics behind the bar at the Wine Library, you're in for a treat. Such is the level of nerdery here, each of the fridges behind the bar is individually programmed for the type of wine you're drinking, whether it's a pared-back sulfite-free rosé from the Rhone, or a bright, yet delicate white wine made from chasselas grapes grown on a windy outcrop of Saint-Pargoire. There's depth and breadth here, and it's well worth going full tilt boogie and delving deep into their back-catalogue of very interesting things by the glass.

On the food front, the menu is once again different from the pub offering out the front (cabanossi and cheese and pickled onions and crackers!) and the dedicated restaurant in the middle (very good pizza!). How chef Monty Koludrovic and the team are managing to juggle this multi-dining juggernaut is a delicious mystery.

Soft roll with blood sausage and egg.
Soft roll with blood sausage and egg. Photo: James Brickwood

A straight-up tartare is hand-chopped and nicely seasoned, dressed simply with a Papanui egg yolk and a scattering of toasted breadcrumbs. That's fine, but what's with Sydney's current refusal to serve toast with raw meat? Is there a bread crisis no one's telling me about?

Anyway, enough about toast, let's talk about pappadums. Here, the cracker-puff is offset by finely-diced raw bonito, then finished in fine, rich, creamy shavings of foie gras. Deep fried sweetbreads draped in guanciale are like the best ever soft little McNuggets. And while a "soft roll" filled with sort of Italian/English (Italish?) hybrid fry-up of soft, sweet blood-sausage, wisps of guanciale and a fried egg is a bit of stretch ("I want it to sigh, says my dining co-pilot. "I want to rest my face on it") it's a winner of a bar snack.

One last thing. If you crack and step away from the wine, consider the very specific gibson. Apart from its lightness and perfect balance, there's a major innovation going on in the glass. And that's the pickled Jerusalem artichokes that have been subbed in for the usual pair of cocktail onions. "I didn't want a room of people on first dates with onion breath." James Hird has your back, young lovers.

Bonito and foie gras crackers.
Bonito and foie gras crackers. Photo: James Brickwood

Bottom line Tartare ($24); Sweetbreads ($24); Soft roll ($10)

Pro Tip: There's only one toilet in the entire venue, and it's upstairs – try and hold out as long as possible and save yourself navigating through a sea of drop-crotch pants