Update: Last I checked, this place seems to have closed down. If you have any more info, however, then feel free to let us know …
It’s only fitting to fall in lust in a place called Vice – and her name is Taranga. I pick her up by chance and her earthy scent, the taste of chocolate left lingering on my lips after she had her way with … ok, I’ll stop my laboured intro. But she was mellow and gentle and …
It was out of dumb luck that I ordered a glass of the 2008 Oliver’s Taranga Grenache ($10.80) in Vice Wine Bar, a new drinking den and restaurant in Balmain, and I’m serious about how good this wine is (out of interest, the Oliver’s website claims this vintage was affected by a 15-day heatwave, so that might explain … something).
But I’m meant to be focusing on the bar.
The ground floor of Vice is easy to walk past. Located where Tuk Tuk used to be, it has the kitchen down the back, a range of candle-lit tables and looks pretty innocuous. However, once I stepped inside I noticed the stairs hidden on the side and headed up to find myself more in Bar Zine territory.
The first floor is filled with dark leather chesterfield lounges, with wooden floorboards, wrought iron chandeliers and patterned wallpaper completing the decor. The music is similarly understated – it’s so quiet I can barely hear that every song is from a different genre, jumping from contemporary to ambient to dance to gypsy folk. Considering its name I half expected a piano player pounding away at a honky tonk while busty cougars prowled for prey (well, I did have my fingers crossed) but this is far more sedate. There’s also a balcony with tables and sofas overlooking Darling Street.
There’s no bar counter here – instead, you rely on table/sofa service – and after I sit down and try not to think of where Balmain’s cougars might be lurking I order the aforementioned Taranga and the braised pork belly.
The pork belly ($25) is sliced and served with zucchini, chorizo, white bean, cherry tomato and parsley, as well as a crispy topping of crackling. There’s a generous amount of pork on the plate and it’s not as fatty as I expected – and the freshness of the white bean, zucchini and cherry tomato helps balance the pork (other meals on the menu include seared scallops, crispy skinned barramundi, chargrilled wagyu rump and a charcuterie plate).
Feeling decadent, I finish off with a glass of the Bremerton Selkirk Shiraz, which is a steal at $8.80 a glass and smoother than your average shiraz.
In short, Vice Bar is the type of place you’d go to with friends or on a date. It’s a civilised, quiet spot for conversation and while you might not find cougars, if you’re lucky you’ll get a date with Taranga.
Vice Wine Bar. Shop 1, 350 Darling Street, Balmain. Phone 8068 2441. Open Tuesday to Saturday until 11pm and Sunday until 10pm.
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Vice Wine Bar?