The menu at subterranean bar and restaurant Dessous is snacky, but substantial enough to nudge casual drinkers into staying for dinner.
Once you’re settled in the subterranean space – all greys and marble and low lights – there’s a sense of concealment. You can see out, but unless they really crouched down, those on the street can’t see in. So it’s easy to get caught, cocktail in hand, watching anonymous feet flash past the basement windows of the historic Richard Allen & Son building.
Get started with small plates. The savoury Unicorn Donut is stuffed with sea-urchin roe and corn custard; there are soft potato pillows with salty bottarga, swimming in butter; a pork-belly sando with tonkatsu sauce; and a dish of pickled globe artichokes, XO and stracciatella. For something more substantial, there’s lamb backstrap braised with saltbush.
The drinks list plays on familiar favourites to create flavours that aren’t immediately recognisable. Add curaçao and allspice to an Old Fashioned and you get the hefty, lively Sherpa. No Hands plays on a Negroni, adding chocolate bitters to Punt e Mes (an Italian vermouth) and Campari.
The wine program – put together by venue manager Sarah Reilly (ex-Point Leo Estate) and sommelier James Hill (ex-City Wine Shop) – focuses on sustainability, biodynamic practices and exposing unfamiliar regions and varietals. Expect drops such as an organic sangiovese from Goulburn River-based label Minimum; a light, sustainably farmed red – served chilled – from Tahbilk’s head winemaker and son; a pinot grigio from Slovenia; and interesting blends including Jamsheed’s La Blanc Plonk, a combination of riesling and gewurztraminer.