A temple to Italian food and wine, with plenty of local options, both familiar and a little wild, all accompanied by a hip-hop soundtrack, with festivities kicking on till deep in the night.
The nuts & bolts
Jared Merlino and Lewis Jaffrey opened Big Poppa’s in 2016 for the express purpose of slinging good wine, funky cheese and hip-hop beats — a noble and lofty goal. The partnership is a first for the duo, with Jaffrey moving over from whisk(e)y-focused Baxter Inn, while Merlino has a stake in The Lobo, Kittyhawk and Bartolo Wine Room.
The subterranean Darlinghurst venue caters for serious diners on its upper level (think leather-lined booths, exposed bricks and cloth napkins), and dancing and drinking in its moody basement cocktail bar. Need a bottle of Barolo or a bourbon sour at 2am? Big Poppa’s has got you.
Chefs Liam Driscoll and Jase Barron (both ex-Pendolino and Glebe Street Diner) are on the pans, turning out hand-made pastas and larger share plates that lean Italian. Pappardelle with lamb shoulder ragu has been a fan-favourite since day one, although the tagliatelle with porcini, thyme and Tasmanian truffle gets a lot of Instagram likes, too. The aforementioned cheese? There are 20-odd options on display in a custom-built fridge that’s very likely taller than you are.
The Italian influence extends to a beverage list. Sydney Beer Co. lager sits alongside bottles of Peroni Nastro Azzurro, the drink-of-choice for hospo staff that pile in from neighbouring venues after service. There’s a 50/50 natural and conventional split for wine, and the selection features plenty of local heroes to wash down all those carbs, including a smattering of alternative Italian varieties. There’s a fiano from Unico Zelo in the Adelaide Hills and a vermentino from Somos in McLaren Vale, plus a Heathcote nebbiolo from Adam Foster’s Garden of Earthly Delights. If you’re a tried-and-true lover of Old-World wines, then there’s a vertical of Cru Barbaresco for you to dive into. Never tried a skin-contact white? There’s always an entry-level orange wine by the glass.
Regardless of how you feel about the wine and cheese (good, we’d hope), we advise that any prospective visitors also like hop hop — they literally don’t play anything else. Merlino warns that the venue gets a little loud on the weekends, which is exactly what you’d expect from a bar named for a Biggie Smalls track.