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Piccolo Bar's David Spanton Is Reimagining the Former Cafe Hernandez Space as a Vermuteria

Spanton has saved another legendary Kings Cross venue — this time transforming it into a bar devoted to vermouth and fortified wine.
By Ben Hansen
January 24, 2023
By Ben Hansen
January 24, 2023

David Spanton might just be Kings Cross' biggest fan. Not once but twice now, the Potts Point local has sprung into action when a beloved venue in The Cross has gone up for sale, turning longstanding spaces into vibrant new bars dedicated to their former custodians. The first was Piccolo Bar, a tiny Roslyn Street institution that Spanton saved and rejuvenated in late 2021, keeping all of the charm of the original while equipping it with a fresh coat of paint, a liquor license and an exciting drinks menu.

Now, he's back to save another much-loved spot, this time taking the reins at the former digs of Cafe Hernandez on Kings Cross Road. The 24-hour cafe had been operating on this leafy street for 40 years — with Spanton recounting visits from the likes of Frank Sinatra and Guns N' Roses over the years. It closed in September of last year when the Hernandez family decided to step away from the venue. Worried it would be turned into a fashion boutique or hairdresser, Spanton came to the rescue, purchasing the property and transforming it into a bar devoted to fortified wine, fittingly called Vermuteria.

Michael Delany, David Spanton and General Manager Michael Drescher

Once again collaborating with Michael Delany (Cafe Freda'sClub 77The Abercrombie and SHADES) on the design, Spanton is currently in the process of breathing new life into the space. But fans of the original cafe can rest easy — the new fitout will maintain key elements of the former, including an original painting from earlier owner Paquita Sabrafen depicting the Count-Duke of Olivares, on which she has superimposed her husband's face. The walls will also feature photographs of Cafe Hernandez and the Polish deli that occupied the space between the 50s and 70s, linking the bar with its storied past.

"People will be able to come in and feel a connection to what was Hernandez Cafe," Spanton tells Concrete Playground. "It's one of those iconic venues in Sydney that most people know about if they're from the Potts Point/Kings Cross area, where you could always go to Hernandez to get a coffee."

Much like Piccolo, Vermuteria will showcase a small specialised drinks menu and a range of tasty snacks, with vermouth and sherry at the heart of the booze offering. Barrels of vermouth will be scattered throughout the bar, and guests will be able to order vermouth on tap, sample the house-made sweet vermouth, and explore a lineup of sherry ranging from fino to manzanilla. A cocktail selection is set to include negronis, spritzes and sherry cobblers.

Paquita Sabrafen's painting of the Count-Duke of Olivares

The snacks menu will pay homage to the former deli, with charcuterie from LP's Quality Meats starring alongside gildas, tinned seafood, cheese plates and sausages.

"There's definitely a much more positive vibe going on in Kings Cross," Spanton continues. "I think that a lot of great venues are starting to open in the area and a lot of places are starting to get a lot busier. I think the customers are loving that there's a lot more going on. And, I think that Kings Cross and Potts Point have some of the best customers."

Fans of Cafe Hernandez's coffee can also still get their fix. While the cafe has closed down, the Hernandez brand is still producing coffee beans which you can order online.


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A post shared by Vermuteria (@vermuteriasydney)

Vermuteria is set to open in February 2023 at 60 Kings Cross Road, Kings Cross.

Published on January 24, 2023 by Ben Hansen
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