With just 24 seats and three staff on the floor, Smalls Bar lives up to its name.
Owner Jess Ho is about the small producers, behind the bar and in the kitchen. Ex-Rockpool sommelier Wiremu Andrews has put together the wine list. Producers from Australia and New Zealand feature, and the rest is from small-scale vineyards from around the world. Beyond this there are classic cocktails and just one beer on tap, which changes with the season.
Chef Andy Hearnden (St ALi) makes sophisticated, snack-sized drinking food such as hot-smoked kingfish rillette. He also does a tart of the day and makes the charcuterie in-house.
There's unlimited sparkling water for $4, and an option to “pimp your dish” – i.e. add truffles to anything – for just $10. The Boilermaker Special, an on-tap beer with a shot of Fernet-Branca, comes in at $14.
Interior designer Fiona Lynch is behind the fit-out. Like warm hospitality or a perfectly mixed drink, you don't notice the individual elements when they all flow together. However, the details are there – from the marble tabletops, to the intricate parquetry floors – it all echoes Ho's approach: considered but unfussy.