James is one half of Wynyard, an all-day cafe that’s accessed from the laneway it shares with European Wine Store and homewares store Made in Japan. During the day you can walk in through Wynyard, but by night, you’ll need to enter from Clarendon Street.
James dutifully serves as an extension of the cafe during the day (what are siblings for, anyway?), serving Single O coffee, stoneground sourdough toast, and eggs any-way to the Lycra-clad and locals alike. But by 7pm, Wynyard is tucked into bed and James comes to life as a European-looking, Japanese-leaning wine bar.
The 40-seat space is a room of clean lines and earthy tones, filled with strategically placed spotlights and light wooden tables. The big interior standout is a blue-brick wall that Tate and her team spend a whole day sandblasting to expose.
Wine here takes centre stage – mostly by up-and-coming producers, with a few more established names thrown in. There are eight Coravin options, where the wine is specially extracted without removing the cork, giving sommeliers license to offer more exclusive and expensive drops by the glass (such as $45 a glass 2015 Matrot Meursault or a $55 a glass red burgundy).
The Japanese-leaning menu keeps things unfussy and playful. There’s fried-chicken bao with kale and cabbage, kingfish sashimi artfully assembled with sliced pickled daikon, and slow-roasted teriyaki beef ribs.
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