Friday 9 June 2006

gazebo wine garden

Gazebo Wine Garden
2 Elizabeth Bay Road
Elizabeth Bay, Sydney, Australia
T: +61 2 9357 5333

Sorry folks, it's taken me a while to post this (two days). After Modena Delicious, Nicki, Fabio and I decided to wet our lips at the new kid on the block in Kings Cross.

Gazebo Wine Garden was a welcome retreat from the pouring rain and, at 10pm on a Tuesday night, we had a choice of bar table or lounge. I imagine earlier on or later in the week we'll have trouble getting in the door.

The interior was decorated in a style that seems to be popping up more and more frequently. I call it "schizophrenic op shop" and I think that gives you a pretty solid picture of the madness: shrubs growing out of the wall behind the bar, light fixtures adorned with creepy abandoned dolls and a taxidermied fox snarling at you from the ceiling (which actually disturbed me to no end).

They have two pages of wines by the glass, which is a great selection by any standards, although I have to admit there weren't that many that excited me. Certain varietals were repeated (chardonnay, cabernet, shiraz) whereas many favourites didn't make the cut (pinot gris/grigio – although there was quite a selection by the bottle). And there were only two rosés.

One glorious attribute is that you can buy wine by the half glass (75ml). This allows you to sample a lot of different wines over the course of an evening and is a fantastic development.

After a few sips of wine, we decided we needed a cheese board. The presentation was excellent, huge shards of crisp bread separating four French cheeses on one side and organic walnut raisin bread, apples and dates on the other. The board was decorated with tiny, red leaves that look like petals but turned out to be baby beetroot shoots (yes, I guessed correctly!). Unfortunately the size of the cheese servings was miniscule and for $22 this was a little steep. We had a white mould brie de nangis, a washed rind pont l'eveque, a semi-hard goat chabichou poitou and the blue papillon roquefort. All very good, especially the pont l'eveque.

Service was haphazard. We had an excellent waitress who could usually answer all questions and was quick to get the sommelier on technical wine queries. Unfortunately she let herself down when delivering the cheese board and couldn't remember what all the cheeses were. Considering there was only four, it was a bit of a slip up. When asked what the tiny purple leaves on the cheese board were, another waiter fumbled and had to check with the kitchen, although he did apologise with an emission that it was his job to know.

The sommelier couldn't translate the wine characteristics, launching into an overly complicated description and comparison before first gauging our level of wine knowledge. The use of esoteric babble was an attempt to cover up the fact that he didn't really know the difference between the two rosés. Unfortunately he was also a little vague, having taken our order he ducked outside for a cigarette and forgot to tell the bar. Ten minutes later another poor sod was beckoned over to take it again.

The wines we sampled were good and overall it was an enjoyable place. The crowd was affable and rambunctious (although verging on too-cool-for-school) and the food being served looked good. I would definitely come back because the vibe was buzzing but comfortable and the service, although confused, was very friendly. It's only been open for one month, so I suspect the service hiccups will soon smooth out nicely and all will be great.

Here's the rundown on the wine we tried (prices are by the glass):

2004 Eric Bordelet "Argelette" – Normandy, France ($9.00)
This pear cider was certainly an easy drink. Fragrant with pear and the lightness of white grape juice, but dry and certainly not too sweet.

2001 Château Maucamp 'Cru Bourgeois' – Haut-Médoc, Bordeaux, France ($18.00)
I liked this wine quite a lot and would hope so for the price tag. It had an excellent nose of ripe, red fruit and a full flavour on entry. I picked up a slight anise edge and couldn't miss the velvety fruit palate. There was a slight tannic end, but nothing unpleasant.

2004 Huia Gewurztraminer – Marlborough, New Zealand ($9.00)
This was a very light wine and even though it had the characteristics tropical notes expected, it wasn't very punchy. It was probably a bit too mellow for me, because I like my traminer on the spicy side.

2002 Schulz Vigeron "Johann" (Zinfadel) – Barossa Valley, SA, Australia ($9.50)
This was described as a "big, bold red" and they weren't wrong. It had a great nose of sweet red berries, an excellent flavour on entry and then a huge pepper kick in the mouth. Not to be trifled with.

2005 Scorpo Rosé (Pinot) – Mornington Peninsula, VIC, Australia ($12.00)
This was a great fruity wine with huge flavours and a dry edge. I adored it.

2001 Mauro Molino Barolo (Nebbiolo) – Langhe, Piemonte, Italy ($25.00)
Fabio said it was a classic Italian barolo with none of the big fruit flavours found in New World wines. I thought it had easy yet dry tannins on the palate, with a hint of tobacco and maybe even some liquorice. It was good, but not worth the price.

2005 O'Leary Walker Pinot Noir – Adelaide Hills, SA, Australia ($9.00)
Subtle oaks with dark berry and stone fruit flavoured. Fine tannins. Fabio thought it was very good for the low price.

2000 Marcevol (40% Grenache, 40% Carignan, 20% Syrah) – Côtes du Roussillon, France ($12.00)
Fabio was very pleased with the grand vin of this little known domaine. Red-black colour, concentrated palate and smooth tannin finish. His final evaluation "eminently quaffable".

You can also check out the Sydney Morning Herald's review of this venue.

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