A super-smart dining destination with Portuguese and French flavours, Bibo also has a list of rare depth and detail for those wine obsessed. Go big or snack and work your way through the extensive by-the-glass list.
The nuts & bolts
- Function spaces: courtyard 44 guests, private dining room 40 guests
Paul Jones brought some useful things with him when he set up Bibo Wine Bar in an old leather-goods shop in Bay Street Double Bay. Although he didn’t have the operational skills to run a wine bar, he did know how to build and fit one out. As well as being an architect, Paul has been a wine lover all his adult life, so a vast cellar compiled over decades came with him, too. Chef and co-owner Jose Silva (formerly head chef at Guillaume at Bennelong) took charge of the kitchen, and former Rockpool sommelier Louella Mathews the list – and the task of plundering Paul’s cellar.
The tone at Bibo is decidedly moody, conspiratorial even, with dark timber marble and textured wallpaper down-lit with matt black, gold-lined pendants and, at night, a flickering sea of candlelight. There’s an open-air terrace that takes as many patrons as inside (40-odd in each), and a private room upstairs that can accommodate 40 diners.
Although sommelier Louella Mathews and team are always on hand with insightful commentary on the 400-strong list, a handful of thoughtful descriptors are offered on the 30-odd wines by the glass (with Coravin used for some of the more aspirational offerings), neatly snapshotting flavour profile and style. The list has an even split of domestic and international drops, with notable vintage depth right across the board, thanks mainly to Paul’s cellar. While there’s ample acknowledgement of skin-contact whites and ‘natural’ wines amongst the pages, it’s fair to say the list has more of a classical bent.
“We have a chalkboard for our wines of the day designed for people who walk in and perch up at the bar ready to go on a wine adventure,” says Mathews. “This can be anything from a classic Mornington pinot gris to a new skin-contact wine to a glass of Brunello di Montalcino.”
The food is Silva’s chance to reflect his Portuguese heritage in a new context – tradition bent to whim and circumstance. Staples include smoked mackerel pâté with toasted grandma’s bread and bacalhau croquettes, but with Nick Schell taking on the head chef role, alongside Silva, the menu has also taken on a French lean as well as a greater emphasis on the provenance of ingredients, with farmers and suppliers credited on the menu. But it is perhaps those most emblematic of Portuguese pastries, pastéis de nata, or as we know them more generically, Portuguese tarts that are the most immovable menu item. Silva is also the owner of Sweet Belem, which is home to arguably Sydney’s best Portuguese tarts, with those burnished flaky morsels providing punctuation to the end of the menu, with or without cinnamon ice cream.