European-style wine bars are popping up all over Sydney but one of my favourites is Vini, a tiny hole-in-the-wall bar on Holt Street that’s easy to miss if you don’t keep your eyes peeled (it’s just around the corner from Devonshire Street and next door to Koko, a great little café that’s also worth checking out).
Not to be confused with the better known Mille Vini on Crown Street (which has an upmarket vibe that may make it more suitable for taking someone you want to impress), Vini has a more casual, laid-back and unpretentious atmosphere. In other words, it’s perfect for a glass of red and a nice meal after work.
The décor is minimal: most of the walls are covered either by wine bottles ready to be drunk or with blackboards listing wines and the food specials (there’s no regular menu here). The restaurant is up the front and there’s also a small bar down the back that’s hidden from the street.
There’s a long list of wines to choose from and in the end I opt for a glass of lagrein, an Italian wine variety that’s not well known but which packs a punch in flavour and colour and is easy to quaff (ok, I just used the word quaff to sound like a wine expert. Quite frankly, I don’t know why people can’t just use the word “drink”).
To go with my quaffing wine I order the tortellini with baccala (salted cod), cherry tomatoes, zucchini and spinach. Salted cod can be an acquired taste (I first had it in Portugal, where it’s one of the national dishes, and to be honest I was pretty unimpressed) but it works surprisingly well with my dish.
Despite being understated Vini is usually full – and since they don’t take bookings I recommend arriving early. If I lived or worked in the area I’d probably make this a regular food and wine stop.
Vini, 3/118 Devonshire Street (although the entrance is on Holt Street), Surry Hills. Open Tuesday to Fri from noon till late and Sat from 5pm till late. Phone 9698 5131 or see the Vini website
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Now it’s your turn – how do you rate Vini?