Some might think the photo I took of 121BC, a hole-in-the wall Italian wine bar hidden in a Surry Hills laneway, is awful. Actually, I suspect most people will think my photo’s crap and they’d probably be right. Still, after a few drinks, I’ve managed to con myself into thinking that, like 121BC itself, it has a European-style 1950s minimalist aesthetic to it.
And yes, I realise I ought to try writing a review while sober for a change.
Perhaps I’ll just stick to facts for the rest of this review.
1) 121BC is the smallest small bar I’ve seen in Sydney. There isn’t even room for tables – instead, there’s a lone, long counter (covered with what I’m assuming are formica tiles) that stretches through the middle of the bar. I like the simplicity – but it also means that you ought to get in early (the bar opens at 5pm) if you want to ensnare a seat.
2) 121BC only stocks Italian wine and some aperitifs. When my companion, the patriotic Scot, asks about cocktails we’re told that while they do offer a peach bellini, and might make a different wine-based cocktail in the future, this bar is purely about Italian vino. Having said that, I’m not complaining. The glasses are reasonably priced – for example, my favourite so far is the A Vito, a light red that has a velvety mouth feel and surprisingly punchy aroma and which is only $6 a glass.
3) The food here is largely Italian bar snacks. We try the bread with sardine butter, the buffalo mozzarella carrozza, the roast olives and the pine mushrooms with borlotti beans and ricotta. For me the highlight is the carrozza, which involves deep frying the mozzarella in bread. It’s a decadent, gooey delight that goes perfectly with the wine and is only $8.
I also like the service and appreciate the staff taking the time to explain the wines to us. Quite frankly, the only criticism comes from the Scot, who believes there should be hooks underneath the counter for her to hang her bag.
In short, 121BC is a great small bar that’s run by the same folk behind Vini, which is just next door. If you can’t get a seat in one bar, you can’t lose by trying the other.
121 BC, 4/50 Holt Street – although the entrance is on Gladstone Street, Surry Hills. Phone 9699 1582.
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate 121BC?