This week, King Street’s Odd Culture Bottle Shop unveiled a revamp that’s been nearly three years in the making. From now, the space will house Spon, a wine bar and bottle-o hybrid that’s putting the by-the-glass menu in drinkers’ hands – and delivering access to a cellar stacked with rare drops.
“We’ve wanted to do a business like this in Sydney for so long,” Odd Culture CEO James Thorpe tells Broadsheet. “It’s something that exists so peacefully everywhere else in the world, including Melbourne – there are tons of these 20-seat drink-in bottle shops, where the government trusts you to sit down and open the bottle in the shop.”
After years of going back and forth, Odd Culture found a hybrid model that Liquor and Gaming NSW were happy with – one that’s “very New South Wales” with a duo of licences and boundaries in the one venue – and promptly began organising for the space to take on its intended use.
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A bar and long communal table have been moved in, the branding and name changed (Spon refers to “spontaneous fermentation”, the style of alcohol the group lives by), and the swirling mural that coats the walls inside and out was updated by the artist who did the spot’s original, Sydney-based Bodie Jarman of El Oso Negro Sign Co. Prime position will be the seats in the big open street-facing window, where there’s a front-row view of eclectic Newtown foot traffic.
Odd Culture’s whole range will be available to drink in-store, where bottles are priced more accessibly without the standard “restaurant margins”. “We’ve got quite a backlog of allocation wine and products we’ve been cellaring,” Odd Culture’s beverage manager Jordan Blackman says. “Now feels like the right time to put these into rotation and open them to share.”
The 12-strong by-the-glass list will ebb and flow throughout the day, with the first two slots given to a red and white drop chosen by the team (a pair that, according to Blackman, will be “fresh, drinkable and enjoyable”). For the 10 after that, it’s drinker’s choice. “A lot of these premium bottles don’t always make their way onto a by-the-glass list,” says Blackman. “With the rarer bottles and the price tag they demand, even if you want to drink it, it’s not always easy to find a bunch of friends that will come in and share that cost. It’ll be interesting to see what people gravitate towards.”
Thorpe thinks it’s likely Spon’s model will shift the way we drink in Sydney. “The granting of our hybrid small bar and packaged licence was the first of its kind when we got it last year, and already there have been a few popping up around the place, like with Frankie & Mo’s in the Blue Mountains. Having a wine list that lives in front of you on the shelf, it’s exciting.”
As for what the team would crack open if they were choosing a glass, it’s big-hitter allocation wines from the likes of French icons Ganevat, of the Jura region, and Loire Valley's Jean-Pierre Robinot, as well as the limited edition beers from France's Brasserie Ammonite, Belgium's Cantillon and Sydney's own Wildflower. And, while the booze is the star, the snacks are sure to be special too, with a tight menu courtesy of the Odd Culture kitchen a few doors down.
To celebrate the opening, Spon will be pouring $6 glasses of Alpha Box & Dice’s pét-nat, orange and chilled red until the end of September – and corkage will be half-price if there’s a bottle you want all for yourself.
Mon to Thu midday–10pm