Vibe: 3.5 stars
Design: Art student, found object d’ refuse meets croquet lawn garden party.
Food: 2.5 stars
Damage: $10 wines by the glass, tapas plates from $12.50, mains from $15.50
OK so here’s the dealio. You know I’m from Melbourne, so there is nothing more annoying to me than this recent obsession of bestowing the moniker “its just like Melbourne” upon every new so-called small bar that pops its cheeky head out from under Clover Moore’s ample skirts. Get over it Sydney. Melbourne is Melborne and Sydney is Sydney. And quite frankly that’s a good thing. How BORING if they were both the same. I love Melbourne for being Melbourne and I love Sydney for being Sydney. Celebrate the diversity people!
Now that I’ve got that rant out-of-the-way, let me say this about Yulli’s. It’s nothing like Melbourne, but it does remind me of that perculiar Melbourne penchant for decorating ones bar with found objects and refuse turned into natty bits of furniture. Got a couple of milk crates out in the lane? Great, whack a bit of perspex on top and et vóila, instant table. Mum’s throwing out those daggy old 70’s curtains? Fab, with a quick flick of the Janome you’ve got yourself a groovy new upholstered banquette. Floor a bit crap? Roll out the astroturf and just watch the hipsters slink in. And on and on it goes across the bars of Melbourne’s CBD, Fitzroy and Collingwood.
Well, Yulli’s has certainly been inspired by this aesthetic and a lack of cash. Thanks to an authenticity that can only be delivered when funds are genuinely tight, the owners have managed to pull off the oh-so-challenging-for-sydney balancing act of keeping the decor retro and relaxed, without it feeling like the owners went down to Vampt and bought the whole lot in an Amex fuelled spending spree.
So they got the decor right. And thanks to some genuinely friendly wait staff, a lovely big picture window at the front and a cute little astro-lined sliver of a courtyard out the back, they’ve got the vibe right. No pretension here. This place screams “hang out all day on one latte if you like. We’re happy to have you”, and we all know that’s a rarity in Sydney.
Sadly, the food lets them down. The menu is ‘international’ which clearly means they can put whatever they like on it without fear of recrimination. Unfortunately it clashes and clangs its way through the world, one tapas plate at a time, without cohesion, through every cuisine of the moment. From too fat Fried Haloumi with the strangest salsa I’ve ever tasted (kiwi fruit & tomato) to Hazelnut & Ricotta stuffed Zucchini Flowers (neon yellow batter covered & too salty, these oddly textured stuffed zucchinis just don’t work ), Steamed Leek and Mushroom Dumplings, a Falafel plate, Hand Cut Chips & more dishes that don’t really match. I guess the interesting thing is that it’s totally vego, without being twee or hippy about it. What a shame they didn’t get the cooking right though.
Like any self-respecting Surry Hills wino, to go with my lively pinot grigio, I want flavours that compliment and enhance my wine. This menu made that difficult, which is a shame because I do think their wine list is full of some great, Aussie, boutique wines by the glass. With the right food, this place could really sing. They also do a cracking good trade in micro-brewery beers, so you’ve gotta commend them for that, and with all of them NSW grown, the slow food movement will be down here in their hemp clad droves.
The thing about Yulli’s is that it really has got the relaxed wine bar thing down pat. Open all day and late into the night, it’s a great place to drop into on your way home from dinner. The lack of pretension and super wine/beer list is what will ensure this charming little watering hole survives the small bar invasion, long after the wannabes have slunk off to Alexandria in search of the next big thing. Would I go back? Definitely, but not to eat.
417 Crown St
Surry Hills 2010
P: 02 9319 6609
Mon to Wed 5pm to late
Thurs to Sun 11.30 to late