It is a small world, after all! How else could a chance encounter in a Paris wine bar lead to an amazing experience in a Australian wine bar? That’s exactly what happened with a French recommendation brought us to “Love, Tilly Devine” in Sydney.
Brian, an occasional contributor to Wine Tasting Bliss, was having a lovely evening enjoying the Paris nightlife when he was told by a new friend, “If you’re ever in Sydney, don’t miss Love, Tilly Devine.” Ever the note taker, Brian recorded that recommendation plus a few others, just in case his travels ever took him down under. Fast forward about a year and those notes became invaluable in guiding a two week vacation through a few fun parts of Australia. In the case of Love, Tilly Devine, the recommendation gave us the courage to venture well off the beaten path to find this venue. Love, Tilly Devine is not just off an alleyway, it is off an alleyway which is off an alleyway! We wandered a bit and found the door. Eureka!
In preparing for our visit, we had researched the origin of the name Tilly Devine. A few minutes with Wikipedia told us that Tilly Devine was a famous madame and gangster boss of the 1940s and 50s, who came to Sydney with her first husband, Jim, when he was deported from England. Her life took her to heights of wealth and power from her unsavory activities, eventually leading to a death in her 70s nearly penniless. We had higher hopes for her namesake wine bar.
We entered the narrow, two story wine bar to find a compact, yet meticulously fixtured bar and kitchen to one side of the room with several tables on the other. Some steps in back took us to an upstairs area that continued the funky casual vibe with a bit more privacy and room to move. Wine bottles and accoutrement surrounded us, as cool jazz played in the background. We chose a table with a nice view of the room plus most of the kitchen and made ourselves comfortable.
We perused the exotic wine list and immediately encountered a new phrase: Pet-Nat. It is short for Pétillant Naturel, a bubbly, somewhat cloudy wine that we could not wait to try. We learned that Pet-Nat was an ancient winemaking technique, comfortably predating the invention of champagne. With the Pet-Nat method, wine is bottled before the initial fermentation phase is complete. Fermentation continues, with the remaining sugar converted to alcohol and carbon dioxide bubbles by the yeast. The carbon dioxide adds the bubbles that we love so much in sparkling wine. The wine is served after aging, without disgorgement or filtering. We found their Little Things “Flo’s Fizz” to be fun, fizzy and full of youthful fruit. We vowed to check out as much Pet-Nat as we could throughout our exploration of Australia.
We couldn’t let that intriguing kitchen go unchallenged either, so we ordered a platter with a very modern charcuterie of thinly-sliced wagyu beef, a bowl of exotic olives, and some truly amazing bread. With a glass of Pet-Nat, a glass of local white wine, and a glass of local red wine around the table, the night was going very well. That impromptu recommendation from Paris was certainly standing up to everything we tried.
Spectacular wine list, exquisite food pairings, ethereal jazz, attentive staff… before the night was out we joined thousands of Sydney locals recommending this wine bar to all of their friends.
About the Author: John grills a mean steak and is always in the market for another wine fridge. Believes that if a winery has more than 10 employees, it's probably too big. Buys wine faster than he drinks it, but who cares?