Dear Sainte Éloise
WE’VE ALL BEEN there – so hungry that you’ll offer your shoes, your bank balance or your first born for a little snack and something to drink. And Dear Sainte Éloise gets it. They’ve named the new Potts Point wine bar (formerly Waterman’s Lobster Co) for that moment of blood sugar crisis when George Orwell, while
Down and Out in Paris and London, prayed to what he thought was a saint for a little supper.
Start with the wine. They’ve packed a whole lot of excellent grape juice into a compact spot by installing wine racks that extend down from the ceiling to door height: big, expensive drops; nicer-than-average drinkers; and everyday smashables, a surprising number under $60, with a good handful under $50. But you’ll need to get them by the glass for the full wine safari experience. They love riesling here, so you could kick things off with a rich, oaky Dhron Hofberg Feinherb number from Mosel in Germany that almost has a calvados flavour to it. Or maybe a Brash Higgins ‘Nymph’ will court you with its introductory hay and honey aroma that gives way to a bright brassiness. Don’t drink? They do a longneck of non-alcoholic apple cider that’s priced like wine at $42 a bottle.
Wine bars, in the great European tradition, are as much restaurants as bars, and here is no exception – they are bussing some shockingly delicious bites out of their compact kitchen. Oysters – plump, briny and in season – get a fresh sparkle from fermented horseradish water. Stay with shellfish and order the mussels on toast. They’re packing an insistent smokiness onto the rafts of charred bread with a perfect dice of carrot and onion and a smoky broth that soaks through the lot. The roe boats are both an excellent pun and an adorable tiny hash brown topped with salmon roe so that it goes crunch, squish and pop when you bite down. It’s no small feat to make celery a star, but here the hearts are cooked in broth until they’re softer than a cashmere sweater, and partnered with bronzed onions, the twang of fresh goat’s cheese and a medicinal sharpness from fresh marjoram leaves. If you were looking for a foil for the roast pork, this is not the vegetable for the job – it’s rich and silky in its own right. However, nothing should stop you ordering those fine slices of juicy pork on a sweet relief of pickled peaches spiked with mustard seeds and macerated grapes cooked in white wine, plus crackling.
Dessert offers simple, farmhouse pleasures like a polenta cake soaked in syrup and sprinkled with dry rosemary, or an extra creamy slice of the Shadow’s of Blue cheese.