From the Love, Tilly Devine crew, the wine traces a similarly organic and natural arc, but with the spotlight more on France than here, while the wine bar fare has now been ratcheted up to accommodate an audience more ready to dine – snacking and sipping is welcome too.
Dear Sainte Éloise takes its name from a line in George Orwell’s classic examination of poverty, his two-part memoir, Down and Out in Paris and London. The desperate plea reads: “Dear Sainte Éloise, if you exist, please send me some money. I don’t ask for much – just enough to buy some bread and a bottle of wine.” Indeed, priorities, priorities. It’s fairly safe to say that the flophouses of 1930s Paris and London are no distant mirror to a wine bar in 2019 Potts Point. And thankfully so. But given Dear Sainte Éloise’s address on Orwell Street, the reference is more than apt.
Dear Sainte Éloise is the French-centred foil to Love, Tilly Devine’s Australian bent. Matt Swieboda and Nate Hatwell (the pair co-own both venues, along with Ragazzi and Fabbrica) have created a 550-strong wine list focusing on organic and biodynamic producers who work with as little winemaking intervention as possible. Here, though, French wine makes up half the list, while the other half is devoted to a broad-ranging selection from here and around the world, with sommelier Felix Auzou now sharing the curation role with Swieboda. There’s a by-the-glass list of about 25 – plus saké and fortifieds – with new or featured wines chalked up daily.
Safe to say that wine is front and centre here, but the menu covers snacks through entrée, mains, dessert and cheese. There’s also a low-waste, sustainable undercurrent, with whole animals being sourced, rather than just specific cuts. Their butcher then dry ages the meat and sends over what they need on a daily basis. Like the wine, all the produce is organic or biodynamic, except for the rare exception.
There was always a feed-me option here, but now head chef Simon Drolz-Cox (10 William St, Cafe Paci and Bar Brosé) has a $75 set menu for those more intent on dining. He has also added his own spin, with pan-Asian ingredients nestling into the Euro-leaning carte.
A recent renovation has seen the main room refreshed, with leather banquettes and Venetian plaster luxing up the space, while the dining room can now spill out into the laneway courtyard, perfect for long lunches and dinners in the favourable Sydney climate. “We opened Dear Sainte Éloise in 2017 as a wine bar, but it has evolved into a fully-fledged dining destination,” says Swieboda. That food focus may be sharing a bit more of the limelight with the wine, but the venue is just as welcome to the casual visitor.
“I was staying with Enrico Tomelleri (ex-head chef at 10 William St) and was eating the most amazing meals at the family table,” he says. “It felt so real and natural, and I felt welcome even though I couldn’t keep up with the conversation. That’s how I want everyone to feel when they come to Dear Sainte Éloise.”