Going to a wine bar and not having any wine might seem like a silly thing to do but allow me to plead my case. This wine bar, The Wine Library on the Woollahra end of Oxford Street reportedly has some very good morsels to eat on offer. These delicious sounding bites also come at some very reasonable prices too - and Woollahra is not an area known for value particularly in boutique shopping or property prices! I was also on the verge of a cold so I say no to a glass of wine which I know is kind of like going to a steak house and not ordering steak but sometimes a girl just wants to eat. My buddy The Second Wife reports being very pleased with the wines that she had. And this post is a combination of two visits, the first with the fabulous The Second Wife and the second with the lovely Petrina from Donna Hay.
And where is the kitchen? Well it is right behind the bar! The open kitchen where food is prepared is a tiny area and the chefs tells the other customer about how different it is cooking out here whereas in a kitchen they never see much action. Case in point, a tipsy customer comes up to the chef and complains about the toilet door loudly and then lurches back to her seat. The chef look bemused by it all.
"Hmm chicken baguette with fennel pollen mayonnaise" I say drooling. The Second Wife, who it must be said is the perfect partner in crime ( we can get up to so much food mischief!) readily agrees to both the lobster roll and the chicken baguette, a serve of sweet potato chips and a witlof salad.
Chicken baguette with celery and fennel pollen mayonnaise $10
We start with the chicken baguette which has been cut in half for us. It is generously filled with tender chicken and mayonnaise and the bread is a white sourdough baguette. I end up eating the filling out of this as the bread is quite thick.
Lobster roll $15
The lobster roll is next. It is filled with tiny morsels of real lobster meat. It's not bad but I think I prefer the chicken roll more as the lobster morsels are very small and appear to be more of the leg meat than the larger tail meat. Unusually, there isn't the fennel pollen mayonnaise on this, it tastes like regular mayonnaise here. We check the menu and indeed, this one is supposed to have the fennel pollen mayo but the other one does. In between visits the price has gone up a few dollars from $12 to $15.
Sweet potato chips $5
The sweet potato chips are well salted and paper thin and crispy and very good and moreish!
Witlof salad $9
The witlof salad, not a salad leaf I usually go for with the bitterness has this bitterness tempered by each leaf having a sprinkling of candied walnuts, salad cream and gorgonzola which makes it a great foil for the crunchy witlof.
Paprika salted almonds $4
Petrina and I are tempted by the crispy roasted paprika salted almonds which has that telltale slight sweetness to the paprika that goes well with the salted almonds, skins also crispy and about to pop off.
Vitello Tonnato $15
I do love vitello tonnato which is cold poached veal slices topped with a tuna mayonnaise and this isn't bad although perhaps not my favourite dish here as I like the veal sliced quite thinly especially around the edges. There is also olive oil and baby capers on top.
Grilled Halloumi and lemon $8
The squeaky halloumi, like all the hot foods, are prepared behind the bar. We watch as a chef places the slices of salty halloumi on the sandwich press type grill and grills it until golden, then drizzles it with olive oil and places a fat wedge of lemon against it. The saltiness and lemon is good and best eaten while freshly cooked and hot as it loses its lovely gooeyness and squeak when it cools.
Lamb and ricotta gozleme $10
Using real gozleme dough, I didn't mind this although I prefer beef mince to lamb mince. The lamb mince is strong in cumin and we don't really get much effect from the ricotta.
Rita's Eggplant Parmigiana $15
Petrina and I had to order this as it looked so delicious with the boiled over cheese and tomato. We are both trying to eat healthily and whilst I offer up a feeble "Well it is a vegetable" we both have to admit that there's a whole lot of cheese on it too (which is possibly why we were drawn to it!). In the bowl are layers of soft eggplant, rich tomato sauce and cheese. OK it's not healthy but it's the kind of bowl you might snuggle up in bed with on a cold night. Thanks to Rita, whoever you may be!
Afghan biscuit $2.50
We're perched on the high stools at the front and feel the need for more comfort so we adjourn to the back room. The Second Wife has a glass of bubbles from the extensive wine menu and we order dessert. As we were walking down the back I saw a display of Afghan biscuits, one of my favourite types of biscuits from New Zealand so I order one of those. It's practically a steal for $2.50! We take a bite and it's lovely and crumbly with that fantastic mysterious crunch that actually comes from ground up cornflakes. The icing is a bit different from the Afghans that I've tried which use a simple icing sugar and cocoa icing. This one is topped with a chocolate buttercream and two walnuts.
Treacle and walnut cheesecake $9_
I love cheesecake so I was making puppy eyes at The Second Wife hoping that she would go for this too and she did-isn't she the perfect partner in crime? The treacle is quite mild, not very treacley here and resembles more a golden syrup and the cheesecake is rich, smooth and creamy with a nutty buttery base.
The Second Wife and I heed the time, it's almost 6pm on a Friday here and we're both tired from our working week and it is getting very crowded and noisy here. We make our way through the crowd and spy some rather eager patrons standing out the front wanting to be let in.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever go to a wine bar and not drink or a steak house and not order steak?
The Wine Library
18 Oxford Street Woollahra NSW
Tel: +61 (02) 9328 1600
Open Mon-Sat 9am-10pm; Sun 9am-6pm