The distance between tables is so small that you could be forgiven for looking up from your phone and accidentally rejoining the wrong table’s conversation. Combined with what I’d call an excessive level of darkness, Monopole is much more a wine bar, than it is a restaurant. No matter, I’m partial to wine, and Monopole certainly has a good list. The shine does wear off the 500-strong list pretty quickly though when your first two choices turn out – just like the oysters – to be unavailable.
Making a good wine recommendation is as much about listening as it is about extensive wine knowledge. Landing a light-bodied Italian Vermentino when the diner expresses they like the voluptuousness of white Rhone varietals is unlikely to end well; ditto an unfiltered, natural style wine when they say they love an elegant Chablis or Chardonnay. We eventually agree upon the 2012 Domaine Charles Audoin Marsannay Burgundy ($98), which was rich but not buttery, and drank well throughout the meal.
What Monopole does well is cooking meat, starting with their House Cured Beef Pastrami ($8) presented on cracker boats with goats’ cheese and pickled cucumber.
The cold cuts, like Cured Rangers Valley Tri Tip ($10), are also great wine companions, the thin slices melting on the tongue like meaty communion wafers. Tart pickles and bread offset the well-kept charcuterie selections, hanging in a climate controlled fridge behind the bar.
Smoked Eel Brandade ($24) is another winner, its creaminess balanced by pickled beetroot and tiny dabs of burnt apple. It’s served on bark-like crackers, and makes our Chardonnay sing. I’m less impressed with my Moreton Bay Bug ($26) though the fault is entirely my own, this crustacean was listed in singular form on the menu. It’s split down the middle and treated quite simply with dill and chilli oil. There’s nothing wrong with the cooking or flavours, I’m just smarting at the price.
Having being drawn to try Monopole after falling in love with the nuanced vegetarian dishes at Yellow, I was disappointed with the only vegetable dish on the menu. Shaved Zucchini, Mint and Pepitas ($18) is overpriced, and something I could easily whip up at home. It does however play well with the more substantial end of the menu, which you shouldn’t be afraid of; size is of course relative, and even the most expensive Rangers Valley Brisket ($32) isn’t what I’d call big. It is however delicious, cooked slow on the charcoal grill after being brined. It's the epitomy of New York Jewish cuisine and I love it.
You'll love Monopole if you love wine, and places like LP's Quality Meats, but want your meats served with less generosity and a little more refinement.
71A Macleay Street, Potts Point
Ph: (02) 9360 4410