When co-owners Matt Swieboda, Jasmin Natterer (manager at London’s Sager and Wilde), Nathanial Hatwell (sommelier at Mercado) and Ben Abiad (former chef at Sean’s Panaroma) were forced to shut the lobster bar due to soaring seafood prices, they wanted to explore a way to transform the Potts Point venue. The result is 40-seater wine bar Dear Sainte Eloise – and its ambitious.
“It was the perfect opportunity to get the old team back together and see if we can outdo what we did in Darlinghurst,” says Swieboda. “With the exception of Monopole, we’re going to have the most in-depth wine program in Potts Point. We want to make a big statement about the kinds of wines we will feature.”
The formula behind the 400-heavy list respects all wine movements – from the established players to the young producers. There will be an equal split between Australian and European. “We want to showcase wines focusing on volcanic soil, while another section is all about what’s popular in Paris and London.”
There will be 16 wines by the glass, starting at $10. “Life in Potts Point is really expensive. We want this to be a place that people can come several times a week,” says Swieboda.
While the food is serious, wine comes first. “I feel that many wine bars that have opened up recently are very much more restaurants than wine bars,” says Swieboda. “I would like to see a return to a sense of proportion and value.”
Abiad’s snack offerings provide the perfect pause between sips of wine. “We want to provide food that’s not showy but just makes you feel good,” says Swieboda. “We won’t know what’s going to be coming up day to day. Last night we had dinner together, Ben [Abiad] served mussels with smoked olive oil, fresh marjoram and bread. Then, we had onions, whole and roasted, and when you peeled away the outer leaves it revealed a soft, beautiful centre with celery hearts.”
Another dish you can expect to see is beef sirloin, sliced finely, with Jerusalem artichoke puree and horseradish cream.
Ian Kanik’s interior design is warm and intimate, with industrial, dimly lit lamps towering above each table.
The name is a reference to George Orwell’s memoir Down and Out in Paris and London. “It’s from a scene where the protagonist, Orwell, is destitute on the streets of Paris and prays to Saint Eloise, asking her for a few franks to buy bread and a bottle of wine,” says Swieboda. “It’s all about the rejuvenation that can happen when you have something so simple as good food and a bottle of wine.”
Dear Saint Eloise is slated to open on May 23.