My photo doesn't do the Gazebo Wine Garden justice - it's a pretty location, in the old Gazebo hotel, close to the police station and fountain in Kings Cross. While you can sit inside, most diners opt to dine al fresco - and once you see the pretty lights, and enjoy the gentle hum of conversation in Sydney's currently ambient evening temperatures, you can see why.
One thing I noticed was that most of the diners were female - in fact, most of the groups were groups of women without men. In fact when I chatted to the vibrant restaurant manager, Justin Wydeman (who I last met on the floor at Pello) I heard that he and his team of handsome, engaged wait staff basically see their job as pleasing women (and the men they may choose to bring), and the demographics I had noticed are no aberration.
One way they do this is the focus on wine rather than beer - they have a pneumatic wine system that allows wine buffs to taste before you buy. Yes with over 50 wines by the glass ($7.50-$36) it sure is a chicks’ place! You can ask the sommelier to show you the way it works if you’re interested - but there's a word of warning about sommeliers in the ladies' toilet:
However in this case, it didn't seem to be true. We had a great tasting of 10-15 wines before we even sat down to dine - in fact we had practically forgotten that we were there to dine! On the back page of my menu was a nice little reminder...
So we settled in to try chef Heidi Flannagan’s cuisine - starting with the high point, her expertise with mussels (she used to work at the Heritage Belgian Beer Cafe and Epoque. We had a pot of White Wine and Chive Cream Mussels ($21.50). She’s smart enough to avoid overcooking them (even if that means a fair few don’t open) and the white wine and chive cream sauce had us scrabbling for bread - one of the best pots of mussels I have had for a while.
I also really enjoyed the special of Blue Swimmer Crab Pasta, but it could have been improved by it being served with a crab cracker.
Calculating ladies may even gain the admiration of fellow diners by ordering ‘just’ a Salad of Warm Beetroot, Eschallot, Goats Cheese and Walnuts ($19), secure in the knowledge that lurking under those greens is a buttery pastry shell, and capping the hidden tart is creamy, dreamy cheese from plump Gloucester goats. As for me - I went: "This isn't a salad, it's a well disguised tart!" Justin just smiled.
If you do take a man, he may enjoy (as mine did) the Grilled Rump Steak on Kipfler & Speck Hash with Bone Marrow Butter ($25).
But frankly, I think I'd make this one a girls' night out - or better yet, why not enjoy a more alcoholic wine based Girls Picnic complete with snacks any weekend between midday and six? It's a nice answer to the High Teas (usually dominated by baby showers and hen's nights). For a picnic, you don't even need an occasion to grab your girl posse and spend some quality time together.
I will leave you with my favourite piece of quirky writing on the wall:
Gazebo Wine Garden
2 Elizabeth Bay Road Elizabeth Bay
Ph: (02) 9357 5333