It's date night in the city again and this time Mr NQN and I are headed to Monopole where amazing food is served in a casual wine bar and bistro setting. If you're looking for a wine bar that happens to serve phenomenal food then bookmark this review.
It has been 3 years since Monopole moved from Potts Point to the city. The new space is slightly hidden away in Curtin Place among a cluster of other restaurants behind towering Australia Square. It's a casual space with an open kitchen. Monopole is part of the Bentley restaurant group that includes Bentley Bar, Cirrus and Yellow by Chef Brent Savage and sommelier Nick Hildebrandt.
They've brought along their extensive wine menu that leans towards Australian and French. The focus is mainly on wines rather than cocktails and there are also no mocktails. When I ask about it they offer to make me a mocktail based on the flavours that I like. I end up with a fresh lime and ginger ale based mocktail that is perfect in its light bitterness and Mr NQN enjoys his Monopole martini.
Eating a full dinner from a bar menu is never going to be an inexpensive option. To this end they also have a Monday to Friday pre theatre menu and on Wednesday to Friday from 3pm-5pm, a well priced happy hour with half price food and drinks. On Saturday nights there is also a 4 course tasting menu available for $130 a person. Service ranges from friendly and welcoming to very serious. We make our order and the food arrives quickly.
The first dish to arrive is the Comte custard piped atop lightly toasted sourdough batons. I take each bite slowly savouring and appreciating how light both the bread and the custard are. The Comte custard is so smooth that it has the texture of whipped butter but with the flavour of Comte. Heaven. I'll take half a dozen of these to myself and eat them in the corner in reverential silence.
The Abrolhos scallops are caught off WA's Abrolhos Islands and are large with a buttery texture. Here they are served up already sliced which makes them much easier to eat with a green apple and brown butter that is sweet and fragrant. Make sure to not leave any of that delectable butter sauce behind by ordering some sourdough to soak it up.
We are living our best life with the three entrees. The crumpet is everything that I want but it's not all looks; it is a thick, puffy crumpet topped with creamy taramasalata and Yarra Valley trout roe. Again we savour each bite of this slowly not wanting this to end.
I'm convinced that this is some of the prettiest food on offer in Sydney at the moment and my eyes widen when they set the chicken liver parfait down. It comes in fluted swirls with ruby grapefruit jelly on top, chervil and toasted sourdough. The chicken liver parfait is nice but I don't think I would order it again. It's not that I didn't love this, it's a good parfait but it's just that the other dishes are more exceptional and you do see chicken liver parfait on many restaurant menus (although they probably won't be as pretty as this one).
Like this stracciatella dish. Stracciatella is a popular ingredient but here it is combined with golden kiwi, preserved lemon and celtuce. It is such a winning combo straddling freshness and creaminess, sweetness and saltiness in a delicate balancing act. And am I really saying this about salad?
The raw beef is also one of my favourite dishes. Thinly sliced raw beef blankets a mixture of pickled wood ear and enoki mushrooms with radish cubes and you mix up the egg yolk to dress the whole dish. I did not expect the flavours of this to be so robust and delicious.
We decided to share one main and that is the pork neck as its one of my favourite cuts of pork. It's served perfectly cooked and already sliced and it still has a beautiful juiciness to it. It is paired with a sweet black garlic and buttermilk sauce and charred peas. It is a bit on the smaller side and I would probably stick to the snackier items.
There's one dish that I wanted to order but decided against but then I couldn't stop thinking about it so we ordered it. There are four steamed and then deep fried buns with a separate plate of tiger prawn XO and macadamia cream. It's beautifully textural with the crispy edged, soft centered buns and the deliciously punchy prawn topping and silky macadamia cream. The only thing is that I don't think there's quite enough of the prawn and macadamia cream for the buns and I could have easily had double that topping for the number of buns.
We share one dessert although we are almost button poppingly full. I ask for the Calvados baba to be made with less alcohol and it ends up being pitch perfect for me like that. It comes split in half and soaked in Calvados and apple juice with a side of soft cooked apples and a bowl of sweet Chantilly cream. The baba is moreish and I wish I could have fit more in as the crispy edged cake goes so perfectly with the apples and cream.
So tell me Dear Reader, do you ever eat a whole dinner at a wine bar or do you just go for drinks and snacks? And do you drink more wine or cocktails?
16/20 Curtin Pl, Sydney NSW 2000
Phone: (02) 8080 9144
Tuesday 5–10 pm
Wednesday 12–10 pm
Thursday 12–10:30 pm
Friday 12–11 pm
Saturday 5–11 pm
Sunday & Monday closed