Chef Daero Lee has been mixing Korean flavours with Western cooking techniques in Surry Hills for the past four years. First, at Soul Dining, a contemporary Korean restaurant tucked away on Devonshire Street. There, Lee turned the humble eggplant into a salty, flavour-packed, show-stealing hero. A couple of years later he teamed up with chef Sunny Ryu to open Soul Deli, a Korean cafe and takeaway on Campbell Street, where the pair put Korean fried chicken on Martin’s Famous Potato Rolls and had a kimchi bar.
A few weeks ago, Lee and co-owner Illa Kim announced that Soul Deli would be moving to a new spot, making way for a different venture: Bar Soul, a passion project years in the making.
“From the time we opened Soul Dining, a wine bar has always been on the cards,” Kim tells Broadsheet. “It just took a while to find the right space, because we had distinct ideas of what we wanted.”
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It had to be somewhere in the neighbourhood, it had to have the right cosy look and feel, and it had to be somewhere locals could “come in the morning and read the newspaper, as well as somewhere they can come after work”, Lee explains. When a vacancy came up down the road, in the new Adge Hotel, it would have been easiest to open the bar in there. But it didn’t quite fit the criteria. So, they decided to move Soul Deli into the Adge Hotel, replacing it with Bar Soul.
“We were initially a bit worried that we would lose some Soul Deli regulars,” Kim says. “But the regulars are still coming back – actually, now they come to both.”
Ryu helms the wine bar’s menu and, much like at Soul Dining and Deli, he’ll be putting a contemporary spin on Korean ingredients. But, this time, wine is the focus.
“Sunny is crazy about wine – we both are. I think he actually considered a career change from cooking into wine at a certain point,” Kim says, somewhat tongue in cheek. “The best thing is that he finally gets to do what he has always wanted to do, which is food mixed with wine, but with his heritage reflected as well.”
Head in for a boozy lunch or an evening tasting experience. You might start with scallop crudo with Korean-style ajo blanco, before moving onto slow-cooked pork jowl with witlof, confit garlic puree, black rice and jalapeno, or seared Wagyu with a warming broth. Finish off with a chestnut tiramisu, all while sipping on both new- and old-world wines (including a number of Australian selections), soju and, soon, house-made rice wines.
There’s also a tight breakfast offering from 7.30am, including Soul’s take on Maxim, a classic Korean instant coffee. The space looks nothing like the light and bright Soul Deli. It’s modern and a little moody, with timber furnishings, gold banquette seating and subtle Korean touches like traditional Minhwa prints, which are believed to bring good luck and prosperity.
On warmer winter days, perch up at the al fresco area and watch the world go by.
Shop 1&2/185 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
Mon & Sun 7.30am–2.30pm
Tue to Sat 7.30am–2.30pm, 5.30pm–late