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Mille Vini – a thousand times “Yes!”


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Earthy Tuscan rustica meets slick Sydney bar.  Sandstone bare walls cosy up to dark wooden tables, low lighting and an exposed wine cellar.  Warm, elegant and cosy.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Entree: $12-$24 Mains: $23-$34 Dessert: $12 Wines by the glass from $7, by the bottle from $35

Mille Vini's exterior

I have a confession to make.  I’ve been to Mille Vini more than once.  Forgive me father for I have sinned, many times.  A thousand times?  Well not quite, but I have frequented this chic hole-in-the-wall more often than is healthy.  A couple of hail marys and I can be back on my sinful way, you say?  Well sign me up and call me a Catholic so that I may once again worship at the alter of a thousand wines!

Mille Vini is one of those rare little delights that Sydney manages to cultivate seemingly out of nothing from time to time.  With a solid pedigree that hails from those talented folk who built Pizza e Birra, Mille Vini is what happens when excellent taste meets authenticity meets demand meets surryhills2010.  Seriously, if I were to design the perfect wine bar cum restaurant, this pretty much would be it.  Great design that evokes warmth and sophistication without pretense, looking up from your Pinot Grigio you wouldnt be surprised to see Sophia Loren scooting past on a Vespa at 2 in the afternoon its so Euro.

Mille Vini interior

Thats right, its authentic.  From a miniature galley kitchen, the corridor that manages to fit no less than 6 tables, right down to its open air bar seats at the front, Mille Vini would not be out of place shoe-horned down any tiny laneway in Siena, save for the Aesop products inside ‘il bagno’. Sadly, unlike in Siena, it is more than likely that you will be forced to wait up to 45mins for a table if you arrive after 7.30pm on any given night of the week.  Of course there are no bookings so your best bet is to put your name down with the staff and take a stroll down Crown St to Yulli’s to wait it out (check out my Yulli’s review in this blog).

As is the great tradition in Italian enoteca’s, wine is always consumed with food.  Mille Vini does a cracking trade in delicious spuntini (bar snacks), antipasto & heartier dishes designed to be easily shared.  From the stuffed calamari, Nonna’s home made gnocchi, the superb cheese platter and everything else in between, Mille Vini‘s deft and authentic Italian touch ensures each dish delivers a delicate yet flavourful punch with every bite.

Stuffed calamari with tomato salsa

Figs wrapped in proscuitto with blue cheese

Cheese board with honey and quince jelly

But let’s face it, Mille Vini is all about the wine.  It ain’t called ‘thousand wines’ for nothing.  As you sit, literally surrounded by the colossal wine store and ponder its even more daunting leather bound ‘vino libro’, fear not dear reader, your humble waiter is not only a dashingly handsome italian with piercing blue eyes, but also a bonified wine expert.  Yet another layer to the authenticity of this great enoteca is the fact that all of the staff are schooled in the breadth of the old and new worldly wine list and thereby well qualified to offer up educated recommendations.

Some of the wines on offer...

It is my humble opinion that when faced with the option to go Old World, one should always take it.  Thanks to this M.O, and Mille Vini, I have been introduced to some of the most delightful Barolos, Albariños & Moscatos with delicious results.  Not that my liver really needs any further introduction to such temptations…

Mille Vini is the original small bar, but so much more.  The perfect spot to watch the hipsters and fashionistas slink by, sup on some saporous food & wine and share in the good life.  It maybe Italian for a thousand wines, but Mille Vini is more accurately ‘la dolce vita’, the sweet life.  I’ll be going back for sure!

Loco Tip:  Mondays you’ll be lucky enough to score my fave, the $16 pasta & vino deal.

Mille Vini

397 Crown St

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9357 3366

Hours:

Mon 5pm-10pm;

Tue-Wed 5-11pm;

Thu 8am-11pm;

Fri-Sat 8am-12 midnight;

Sun 8am-10pm

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The Devonshire – tea for two anyone?


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 3.5 stars

Design: A bit try-hard; Victoriana Tea Room meets Thai diner.  You need to look past bad decor to find the warmth, but it’s worth the effort.

Food: 4 stars

Damage: Entrees $20-25; Mains $26-35; Desserts $14-15; Wine $35-136

I’m sure you’ve all noticed the Franco-Anglais fu-vasion going on in Surry Hills lately.  How could you miss it?  Any self respecting restauranteur or chef seeking to make a name for his or herself in the competitive Sydney restaurant scene, is sous videing, foaming, triple reductioning and foraging their way around the urban gardens of the inner east muttering mad supplications to deities in the pursuit of gastronomic riches and accolades.  What started overseas with El Bulli, Mugaritz & Fat Duck has finally distilled it’s way down through the social dining classes from haute cuisine, to a more accessible and infinitely more Australian experience.  It’s what I dig about Surry Hills right now.  All the intense skill and dedication to an art worthy of the best palates without the pretense, and the expense.  This is an evolution of dining I wholeheartedly support.

So, to The Devonshire.  Firstly, it’s important to get the whole Jeremey Bentley was the sous chef to double hatted Restaurant Balzac top gun, Matt Kemp out of the way.  Yeah, yeah, the kids got some big name experience in rattling those pans but lets give some kudos where kudos is due.  Bentley is rocking it all by himself at The Devonshire.  Sure, Kemp’s an investor in the biz but it’s Bentley that’s responsible for the menu and delivering on some pretty high expectations.  And he does it in spades.

Inside The Devonshire

Before I get into the food, I do need to take a moment to rail against the wholly flat and overlit ambeince out on the floor.  This lack of vibe was enough to hold me back from visting the place earlier.  However, after our planned evening at Eathouse Diner  was foiled, a savvy member of the Gastro Gang of Four lodged an urgent request to The Devonshire to rustle us up a table at short notice.  Lo and behold, the gastronomic gods were smiling, because one quick glass of pinot grigio at the Woolpack Hotel on Chalmers St and we were hot footing it up the street before this Sydney dining aparition could evaporate like last night’s truffle foam.

Whisked warmly to our table by a charming waitress, the Gang of Four had wine ordered and were happily chatting away in what seemed like mere moments after our disappointing Eathouse Diner experience (more on that in a later post).  The wine list is perfect for a neighbourhood restaurant in that it is interesting, with a real commitment to terroir, without being over the top and pretentious.  There are plenty of great international and domestic wines under $60 and you can certainly trust that if it’s on the menu, its bound to be good.  We had a truly memorable 2009 Kientzler Pinot Gris from Alsace that, upon first sip, prompted one of the gang to enquire as to the size of the store in the cellar, lest we should drink them dry.

So, to the food.  On this fine Autumnal eve, the Gang of Four were up for a sharezys type of vibe, and The Devonshire were more than happy to facilitate.  Before we’d even ordered, our lovely waitress delivered  a supremely tasty appetiser of warm, fluffy potato and salted snapper brandade, with some very moreish grissini.  After whetting our appetite on that, we quickly moved onto the Quail Bird Nest Salad.  A fantasmagorical dream of golden crumbed quail eggs, frisee and bois boudran.  A textural masterpiece, it will leaving you dueling with your dinner partners for the last crunchy noodle.

Quail Birds Nest Salad

Bouyed by the quality of our first dish, we moved swiftly onto the sweetbreads.  Now I’m not normally one for the sweetbreads but, bolstered by the Gastro Gang of Four and that superb Pinot Gris, I felt tonight was as good a night as any to dance with the bovine devil.  An artfully arranged dish of Veal sweetbread, tongue, a delightfully crunchy brussel sprout coleslaw with almonds and madeira, my first foray into sweetbreads was intensely piquant and not altogether a bad experience.  I’m not sure it’s something I’ll order frequently.  But, if you like sweetbreads, I’m pretty sure this dish will do you proud.

Veal sweetbread, tongue, brussel sprout coleslaw, almonds and madeira

Next on our share mission, was the simply devine Bangalow pork loin.  Oh my goodness.  It’s a fairly recent obsession of mine that if I see pork belly on the menu, I have to order it. The Devonshire’s take on this lip smackingly good dish is to die for.  Bentley serves it up in a perfectly zen circle with the loin, belly and shoulder, circling the plate amongst flawless cubes of pumpkin, prunes and apple sauce.  I wish I had a photo to upload for you but, the Gang of Four were so enthusiastic about this dish, I had no time to snap it before the hoardes descended.  Go order it yourself to see why.

Wrapping up this delicious evening was a trip down nostalgia lane with two desserts that tipify The Devonshire’s inventive take on French-Anglais fine dining.  First, the signature dessert; Devonshire Tea crème brulee.

Devonshire Tea Creme Brulee

A witty take on your Grandma’s Devonshire Tea (actually a personal favourite of mine on a cold and wintry Sunday afternoon), Bentley’s culinary skill and cheeky approach really sings in this dish.  Nanna’s tea cup filled with Earl Grey flavoured creme brulee, cozies up to a scoop of scone flavoured ice-cream, cherry jam and whipped cream.  Perfection on a plate if ever I saw it.

An order of Pineapple caramelised pudding, served with ice-cream and soup finished off our meal thanks to a pineapple obsession held by one of the Gang of Four.  After a bit of cutlery kung fu, the last morsel disappeared swiftly into our stomachs and we were left satiated and fuzzy.

Caramelised Pineapple with Ice Cream & Soup

OK, so The Devonshire is not part of the latest hip Americana-Tiki-Frat House bar/bodega/restaurant trend.  But, it is completely on trend with the whole Brit-Franco, fresh-faced fusion thing that’s taken hold of Sydney’s fine dining scene over the last few years. The beauty of The Devo?   It’s more laid back and has a bit of a giggle with what’s on the plate.  And that’s perfectly on trend for my Surry Hills.  Go check out The Devonshire.…coz you know your Nanna loves it!

The Devonshire

204 Devonshire Street

Surry Hills NSW 2010

P: 02 9698 9427

http://thedevonshire.com.au

Hours:

Friday 12pm-2.30pm

Tuesday-Saturday 6pm-10.00pm


13b – Hemingway meets the Great Gatsby


surryhills2010 Rating;

Vibe: 4 stars

Design: Ernest Hemingway would approve of the dark petroleum coloured walls, marble top tables and Louis XV inspired wall sconces and bar.

Food: 2.5 stars

Damage: what you’d expect from a hip Sydney bar; $4-22 mains; $15-20 cocktails

13b interior

UPDATE JULY 2012: THIS BAR HAS CLOSED

13b is a safe haven of heaven against the bridge and tunnel invasion on a Friday night in Surry Hills.  Formally known as The Safe House, it’s a small bar in the truest sense of the word.  It’s tiny.  Right now thats OK coz its still blissfully under the radar.  Something that surprised my pal and I when we strolled in at 8.30pm this Friday night with no booking.  You can imagine our surprise to find this charming little nook blissfully devoid of Homo Sapiens Boganis especially having just followed a mass pack of them down Riley St on our way to the bar.  And that’s one of the supremely great things about Surry Hills.  Around every corner, down a little laneway, up a flight of concealed stairs and through a non-descript door is potentially a golden little nugget of a bar or restaurant just waiting to be discovered.

Located at the hippest address in town right now, the triumvirate of Dr Pong, Commons Local Eating House and Pocket Bar, Burton St north of Oxford (Bur-No-Ox) 13b Burton St, Darlo is a wine-bar-cum-bistro intriguingly named 13b, of course, after its address.

Intimate coffee den by day, wine bar by night, 13b is pleasingly minute with a limited charter, but one that it seeks to do well.  That limited charter restricts itself to a small menu of mod-oz classics and a few whacky tapas style plates for good reason.  The kitchen is small and the experience behind the bar is really the key selling feature of this joint.  Cocktails both old school and new are really what sets this place apart.  With a sassy nod to the Prohibition era, the cocktail list reads like an F. Scott Fitzgerald  novel and takes in old classics like the Negroni, but spices things up by conga-lining it down to the Caribbean (Rum replaces Gin) with their original take on the martini.  On our visit, we worked our way through the list by starting with the Maple Rose (Maker’s Mark, maple syrup, lemon juice, with a rosemary garnish), tripped onto the signature  13b martini, a refreshing concoction of watermelon, kaffir lime, herradura blanco tequila, pomme verte with a hint of apple, until finally weaving our way merrily towards the Don Corelone.  It’s a testament to the power of this drink that I can’t actually remember what’s in it – rest assured, it was good!

a Maple Rose & 13b Martini

Personally,  I wouldn’t go to 13b for the food.  I’d go back for the welcoming and embracing Paris-after-dark vibe, the stupendously good cocktails and a smile from one of those hip bartenders.  Apparently the coffee is top notch and the weekend breakfast worth the trip, but I’ll have to leave that review up to you guys….surryhills2010 is onto the next hip joint on your behalf.

13B

13b Burton St
Darlinghurst 2010

P: 02 9356 8718

http://www.13b.com.au

Hours

Tuesday – Saturday: 7am – Midnight

Sunday: 8am – 4pm


What is surryhills2010?


Glad you asked!  Living in this most excellent village for the past 4 years I have seen ‘the harp of the south’ change dramatically.  From a slightly grungy teenager with pimples and a grumpy attitude to an edgier, more confident hipster with dark glasses and attitude to burn.  And thanks to the progressive vision of our illustrious Mayor, the ‘city of villages’ found its ground zero in my beloved Surry Hills, postcode 2010.

The relaxing of Sydney liquor licensing laws in 2009 saw the mad flurry of ‘small bar’ applications and thanks to close proximity to the CBD and the cheaper rents, Surry Hills became the place to be and the home of the small bar.  And with small bars came the restaurants.  And come they did, in their hundreds.  At last count there were in excess of 200 restaurants in the 2010 postcode.  Many of them opening since 2009.  Which brings me to the purpose of this blog.

I wouldn’t call myself a foodie, but I do love food.  Even more than that I love eating good food in a great restaurant and if its shiny and new, then all the better!  After 7 years of eating my way through some of Sydney’s finest, coolest, tastiest, edgiest or just plain weirdest restaurants and realising that I really wasn’t making much headway through the myriad of tasty options,  I came upon the idea of setting myself the ultimate food challenge: eat at a new restaurant in the 2010 postcode every time I eat out and see how long it takes me to get to the end.  Will it take a year?  A month?  6 months?  Who knows, but I do know that there will be some fun times ahead…and possibly a few kj’s consumed (my personal trainer is gonna love this crazy idea!).  And when I’ve finished with 2010, who knows maybe I’ll take on the world!

So that’s the plan friends.  Every week Ill eat out at a new* Surry Hills restaurant and write about it here.  l’ll let you know what’s good about it, what’s not and whether I’d recommend it for a repeat visit.  That is surryhills2010.

And because I believe in the power of a good image, here’s one to get this blog started…if you like this, you’ll love my blog!

a typically elegant example of food in France

Dont forget to subscribe if you want to get regular updates on restaurants in Surry Hills…and tell me what you think via the Comments after each post.

Hope to see you back here soon!

Emma x

 

*Explanation: ‘new’ can mean brand new to the area or new to me.  The important thing is, that I wont be able to go back to the same restaurant twice…a sad reality for me but good news for those of you who want to find out about as many restaurants as possible, in as short a time as possible!


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