We were particularly saddened to see Potts Points' Waterman's Lobster Co. close last month, but its replacement Dear Sainte Éloise has admittedly brought a fresh new late-night option to Lankelly Place.
Though most of the laneway is closed or empty on a Tuesday night, it's another story altogether inside Dear Sainte Éloise. The warmly-lit wine bar is aglow with patrons and the staff bustle around precisely — it's already a well-oiled machine. It's clear the Love, Tilly Devine crew — namely owner Matt Swieboda, head sommelier Nate Hatwell (Mercado), manager Jasmin Natterer and head chef Ben Abiad (co-founder Brickfields Bakery, ex-Sean's Panaroma and Mecca) — know what they're doing.
The long, copper bar is the main feature, adorned with racks upon racks upon racks of wine that showcase the bar's huge selection — all up, there's 350 plus bottles, which have been plucked from all over the world, from Austria to Portugal, South Africa and Georgia, as well as the requisite Australian and New Zealand bottles. Hatwell somehow manages them all with ease and, unless you're an expert, you'll need him to help navigate their extensive wine bible. He pours us glass after delicious glass of some of the best wine we've ever had, including a funky white from the Canary Islands, an oak-aged Grenache from Catalonia and a Gamay from the southwest of France.
A section of the wine list titled 'The Less Popular But Very Delicious Wines of The World' also includes some more obscure French varietals, along with Greek and Hungarian drops. Really, you can't go wrong — even their house wine comes from much-loved French label La Ficelle de Saint-Pourçain, which is a steal at only ten bucks a glass.
While this is a wine bar above all else, the succinct selection of dishes serve well as wine nibbles or a full meal. If you're in for the whole hog, the main dining room has sit-down tables — but for us, the front-of-house stools are where it's at. Sit at the bar to watch the restaurant in action or grab a seat at the window for street views. The menu is printed daily and features wine bar staples like fresh oysters ($4 each) and burrata ($20). But it's so much more than that. Think inventive little roe boats ($5 each) — bright orange fish roe sitting atop a little potato hash 'boat' — along with some fragrant and hearty stewed snake beans ($12), and the delicate celery hearts with goats' curd and burnt onions ($12). For something other than wine, their four-drink cocktail list includes a premium Negroni made with Tasmanian gin, Spanish vermouth and Red Okar from Adelaide's Applewood Distillery in lieu of Campari ($22).
Don't pass up the smoked mussels on toast ($14). Like bruschetta from the sea, the briny broth is slurpable and the succulent, and the pairing of crunchy carrots and fresh parsley with the mussels is supremely well-balanced — much like Dear Sainte Éloise itself. Simply put, this Potts Point venue is knowledgeable without being wanky, sleek without being overdone. Plus, we're all for any place where you can dine at the bar — even if it doesn't involve lobster rolls.
Images: Nikki To.