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Vermuteria Arrives in Kings Cross This Week with Vermouth on Tap Inside a Historic Sydney Space

Adding another exciting venue to the Kings Cross renaissance, Piccolo Bar's Dave Spanton has delivered a second charming neighbourhood bar rich in history.
By Ben Hansen
February 23, 2023
By Ben Hansen
February 23, 2023

Kings Cross is set to land a charming new bar rich in history and pouring vermouth on tap. Swinging its doors open on Friday, February 24, Vermuteria is the latest opening from Piccolo Bar's David Spanton.

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, a tiny Roslyn Street institution that Spanton saved and rejuvenated in late 2021.

Now, as first announced in January, 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 50 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.

Much like Piccolo, Vermuteria showcases a small specialised drinks menu and a range of tasty snacks, with vermouth and sherry at the heart of the booze offering.

"We're really excited to offer two different vermouth blends direct from the barrels which are positioned directly above the bar," says Spanton. "Guests can choose from our Euro sweet rosso blend and the Aussie pinot noir vermouth with the semi-dry bianco blend straight from the tap right alongside the icy-cold Estrella Damm draught."

The scene is set as soon as you walk in, with barrels of vermouth scattered throughout the bar. And, if you prefer a cocktail, there's plenty to choose from utilising the bar's namesake ingredient. Choose between the likes of negronis, martinis, spritzes, white sangria and sherry cobblers.

Prior to being Cafe Hernandez, the space also existed as a Polish deli throughout the 50s and 60s. Honouring this section of its history, the back of the venue has been converted into a mini deli boasting charcuterie from LP's Quality Meats, gildas, tinned seafood, cheese plates and hot dogs.

"There's definitely a much more positive vibe going on in Kings Cross," Spanton told Concrete Playground. "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."

Once again collaborating with Michael Delany (Cafe Freda'sClub 77The Abercrombie and SHADES) on the design, the duo have breathed 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.

"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."

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.

Vermuteria will open at 60 Kings Cross Road, Kings Cross from Friday, February 24. It will initially be open from 4pm Thursday–Saturday.

Images: Chris Pearce.

Published on February 23, 2023 by Ben Hansen
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