130a Beach St Coogee, NSW 2034
|Opening hours||Sun-Thu noon-midnight; Fri-Sat noon-late|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Phone||02 9114 7383|
Justin Hemmes won't reveal how much money he spent on Merivale's new fitout for Coogee Pavilion's middle level, but judging by the amount of marble, it's a lot.
The kind of moolah that might buy a collection of small Greek islands, most of Liechtenstein or a bedsit in Woollahra.
Certainly, some of those costs are absorbed by the dish prices at Mimi's, Coogee Pav's flagship fine-diner, where salt-baked mud crab can weigh in at $180 a kilo, and a caviar trolley laps linen-clothed tables.
I'm all for push-the-super-yacht-out dining on special occasions, but a journalist's wage means Mimi's neighbouring wine bar, Una Mas, is way more in my financial comfort zone. I dare say most Sydneysiders will have similar feelings.
That isn't to say Una Mas is Mimi's for plebs. Far from it. The classroom-sized bar opened in January and it's a beautiful space 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 banquette is the best spot to sink chilled red and cop a sea breeze since Sean's Panaroma.
Thanks to the price of those chilled reds, you can drink well at Una Mas without haemorrhaging cash. From a list of 35 minimal-intervention drops, many wines are priced between $50 and $60 a bottle.
Combine a juicy 2018 Animale pinot noir ($55) from the Macedon Ranges with garlic-heavy fried potatoes ($12) and whole roasted snapper ($38), and hey, presto – you have a cracking supper for any night of the week.
Coogee Pavilion executive chef Jordan Toft channels the Mediterranean at most opportunities, but particularly at Una Mas, where tapas-style plates burst with sun-kissed flavours.
Take the knobs of Italian buffalo mozzarella ($8), for example, served on lemon leaves with the perfume of a holiday in Cinque Terre. Meanwhile, a bowl of plump pipis, pancetta and karkalla ($20) is exactly what you want to eat with wet sand still between your toes.
When Toft isn't about, Andrew Wandless leads the kitchen and a smoked ham hock terrine is the head chef's own creation. Also starring pork neck, parsley, allspice and thyme, the terrine is part of a $30 house charcuterie plate and I would like it served at every picnic from this day forth.
The Catalan coca ($12) is my new post-Coogee-swim snack, featuring happy tomatoes softened by a Josper oven and finished with oregano on a springy sourdough base. All the better with a house spritz ($16) that splashes spicy sherry vermouth about with fizzy pet-nat wine.
The same drink also lends itself to a lemon ice sorbet licked by olive oil ($12) for peak summer refreshment.
A note to the noise averse: Una Mas can be loud, particularly on a weekend evening when synthy music is cranked to soak a sound bleed from the nightclub-style bar upstairs.
Unlike Mimi's, Una Mas doesn't take bookings either, so you'll need to mount a campaign to score a window table and aim to arrive about 5pm.
These are small grumbles, however, and Una Mas is a welcome addition to the east. Coogee has long needed a great wine bar with interesting pours, and sommelier Adrian Filiuta's 600-bottle list from Mimi's is also available on request for anyone keen on grand cru chablis or Domaine de la Romanee-Conti.
For the rest of us, chilled Australian pinot is not just a very nice time at Una Mas, it's bloody good value, too.
If you only eat one thing: Catalan coca ($12).
If you only drink one thing: House spritz ($16).