After my first truly successful meal in the Gosford region at Remy & Co. Pasta Bar, I decided to give another one of Michael Fantuz’s restaurants a whirl. Opening earlier this year, Johnny Fishbone Wine Parlour initially put me off with their staunch no-reservations policy. Time has softened this hard line stance, so I headed in for dinner expecting something Italianate, like elder siblings, Buffalo Dining Club and Chester White.
What I found instead was a compact, Spanish-inspired tapas bar, with one of the shortest menus around. There were just twelve dishes available on the evening I visited, including simple bar snacks like Ricotta, Honey and Sesame Bruschetta ($8/each). It’s simple, but a good way to put a lining on your tummy before any serious drinking begins.
The list here does give you a wide range of options for serious drinking. We got things started with Johnny’s espresso martini update - Espresso Picante ($20) – teaming chilli-infused Herradura tequila with Mr Black, Little Drippa (cocktail cold-drip coffee) and agave syrup. It’s smooth with a lively chilli, that’ll definitely help get your evening started. When The Smoke Cleared ($20) takes an Italian aperitivo (Aperol) and gives it smoky mezcal reinforcement against ginger, lime and pineapple.
It’s just the ticket to enjoy with Grilled Sardines ($16), flattened and crosshatched with char and served on a bed of white beans and chorizo cubes.
With no bartenders with sake knowledge on hand, and no style descriptors on the menu, we ended up ordering all three to conduct our own taste exploration. The easiest to drink is the Fukuchiyo Shuzo Nabeshima ($14/60ml), a junmai daiginjo with a lovely round mouthfeel that starts sweet, and ends with a bit of peppery heat. The Kidoizumi Shuzo Hakugyokuko ($15/60ml) is a junmai ginjo that’s a bit rounder with a more wine-like taste from the lingering acidity and dryness. The most unusual is the Sugii Shuzo Tenpo 13 ($16/60ml), a junmai yamahai, which is a more labour intensive traditional brewing method, and the resulting sake is a bit more robust and earthy.
It’s got enough oomph to stand up to our Marinated Conservas Angelachu ($15) – five Imported, Spanish, canned anchovies presented in oil with cherry tomatoes.
With only a few tables supplemented by bar stools on two sides, the small venue is backed to heaving with a mostly female, post-work crowd. The menu crowd pleaser heading out to nearly all of them is the Burrata and Asparagus ($18). A fat, creamy nodule of milky, white cheese is perched upon grilled asparagus spears with a handful of crunchy stuff scattered over the lot – there's nothing I don't like about this dish.
While the staff welcome is definitely warm, by this stage the relentless 1970s music is becoming a bit much. “I grew up with this stuff already,” my dining companion whines, adding: “It just wasn’t that good - punk happened for a reason.” I'm more curious about the connection between the music and the décor. Wood panels, walls of wine bottles, marble surfaces, dark green leather and tiny white floor tiles actually summon earlier time periods for me. I distract us both with wine; a mellow Spanish import – the 2014 Jordi Miro Garnacha Blanca ($13) and a less impressive Aussie blend of Riesling and gewürztraminer – Liquid Rock’n’Roll White Noise ($11.50). They’re both suitable companions to Chorizo and Pineapple ($16) which is pretty much – give or take a red cabbage hat – what the short menu descriptor says it is.
Hot Fried Ling ($15) fills out most of the corners, with a Korean fried chicken (KFC) type treatment of the white-fleshed fish.
If I'm honest, Johnny Fishbone Wine Parlour wasn't quite the dinner venue I was hoping for, but you can certainly have a good time here combining bar snacks with plentiful drinks.
Johnny Fishbone Wine Parlour
185 Darlinghurst Road, Darlinghurst
Ph: (02) 9332 4052