There are some places that are hard to leave.
In the two weeks which made up ‘return to Oz’ we found ourselves stepping into The Wine Library at Woollahra more than five times.
That might have something to do with the fact that it sits a sprint or so up Oxford Street from Taylors Square Court House – where we spent our days as we were dredged again through the refuse of a criminally slow trial.
It might have something to do with the fact that the only thing in our anemic skeleton of an apartment was a mattress and a coffee machine.
And it might have something to do with the fact it’s a corker of a place.
In an area previously heavy on pub grub of varying quality the blokes from Buzo have put in a very sleek space. Around the corner from the home of the truffled porcini lasagne and just near Claudes, The Wine Library is all shiny high top bar at the front and nookish intimacy out the back, flanked by a petite courtyard.
At 7pm you’d be hard pressed to swing a kitten:
There’s a queue that snakes out the door as locals and blow ins from across the bridge cram in for their share of prosecco and a board of prosciutto, or a bottle of Super Tuscan and some pork and veal meatballs with tomato and cabbage. But hey, it’s popular for a reason.
Working backwards around the clock, at 5pm The Wine Library is civility defined:
There’s room to crook your elbows and make your way through a wine list that’s pregnant with 350 options. It’s time for smokey and spicy nuts and some talk with a girlfriend which might make some boys blush.
And here are some more things to like; hooks for your handbag and crooks for your coat. There’s Spanish pink that’s dangerously affable for $30 a bottle and the wines by the glass come in two sized pours.
At lunch it gets it just right:
There’s plenty of room to breathe and time to ponder the clipboarded menu which takes a jolly tour around some of the best of Europe.
In sweet little jars there’s pate softer than paraffin palms, topped with a vin santo jelly. There’s the Spanish soul-soother of bread con tomate- grilled bread topped with a mush of ripe tomato and garlic- the perfect foil for cured meats and a cheeky glass of Albarino.
There are hunks of manchego, slabs of terrine and a fennel salad which is worth a trip across the Eastern Distributor alone. It’s just shaved fennel, mint, a touch of parmesan, olive oil, lemon, salt and pepper. But together it’s a raucous celebration of the promise of spring. Pair it with some of their wafts of cured ocean trout and you’ll feel restored and virtuous to boot. This is the stuff that fuels ladies who lunch.
If you can’t resolve a meal without something sweet, there’s also plenty here to tempt. Favourite finds of ours were the dulce du leche tart- an impossibly short, crumbly pastry base filled with the sweet gooeyness of caramel. Perfect to share and pick at with an espresso. Otherwise take refuge with a surprisingly dry and slightly chalky cheesecake that gets dressed up with a tumble of treacle. It’s sweet and heathery- all in all, pretty heavenly.
For a place that does so well in the booze stakes, we were surprised to find it also has serious game in the mornings. Come in, claim a spot at the far end of the bar with the sun on your back and flick through one of the day’s papers which are thoughtfully laid out for you. The coffee is pretty darn good and the bacon and egg roll with a chilli tomato relish could almost bring back the dead. There’s a toasted leg ham and vintage cheddar tortilla for those who may have overindulged the night before (that may have been me) and the sweet version of the tortilla; with banana, cinnamon and clouds of fresh ricotta is nursery food made good.
We’d steeled ourselves for the current departure to London by saying ‘we really should get closer to Europe’. We dreamed of quality pink wine at promising prices, shaved pig and sheep cheese. Great coffee and some nookish places where you can eat with one hand and gesticulate wildly with the other.
If we knew we could do it from just around the corner, and pay in Australian dollars too- maybe we wouldn’t have been so swift in booking those flights.
Live and learn. We live and learn.
At least now we have a good reason to come home if everything goes to pot.
The Wine Library
18 Oxford St,