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The Ugly Duckling

Don’t let the name fool you – Richmond’s newest wine bar is no ugly duckling.
By Libby Curran
December 02, 2015
By Libby Curran
December 02, 2015

UPDATE: MARCH 1, 2018 — The Ugly Duckling is helping you banish the Sunday blues with the best Sunday blues banisher there is: free cheese. Rock up after 2pm on Sundays, buy a bottle of wine and you'll get a cheese platter on the house — it might include a brie, some manchego or a blue. More info here.


Swan Street's burgeoning drinking scene has welcomed another snazzy wine bar to the mix. But before you visit, you should know one thing: the deceptively named Ugly Duckling is actually quite the stunner. In fact, with its contemporary design and polished patrons, it draws many more parallels with the 'beautiful swan' part of the famous fairytale.

All pastel tones, grey accents and smooth surfaces, the Richmond space is fresh and chic. A narrow front bar opens out into a bright, lofty atrium, where natural light spills onto intimate tables of after-work tipplers and date-night duos.

The small space fills up quickly which, thanks to that gorgeous skylight, means the acoustics are less than fantastic. Luckily, there seems to be an unspoken consensus that this is a place where it's more important to be seen than to be heard. Anyway, the liquid offerings here are much more deserving of your attention.

Having marked itself as one of the strip's new go-tos for good wine and top-notch cocktails, you can be sure the Ugly Duckling's drinks list is one area that doesn't disappoint. Cocktail creations features spritzes, classics and slow sippers.

The wine list is comprehensive and fairly wide-ranging, if slightly skewed towards those with a bit more cash to splash. A decent range by the glass and half-bottle offers a good excuse to sample a few different things, with drops from across Europe and New Zealand mingling with local labels. Geared towards the coming summer nights, the pouring list is heavy on the whites and bubbles, featuring the likes of a King Valley prosecco ($11 glass).

Though the snacking menu is brief, it boasts some truly excellent produce — just try the buttery-soft Wagyu bresaola from the artisan salumi plate ($28) and you wouldn't dare to disagree.

Pay a visit and you'll soon see for yourself that this Ugly Duckling is living up to its street's name a whole lot more than its own.

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