When Matt Lindsay and business partner Julien Dromgool took on the lease for the corner site in the recently completed and uber hip Paramount House Hotel, in Commonwealth Street, their aim was not to turn out another Ester, their critically acclaimed and much-loved Chippendale wood-fired fine diner. Well, fine diner is perhaps not truly reflective of the style of Ester, with its mood distinctly relaxed, but the detail, finesse and originality of the cooking puts it very much in the top echelon of modern Australian dining. So, fine indeed. Lindsay and Dromgool pitched wine as taking the lead here, with the food supporting.
As with Ester, Dromgool has fashioned his wine list around lo-fi producers, championing naturally farmed and made wines, taking in both local and international offerings. There are 150 or so listings, with another 50 held in reserve to hand sell. The by-the-glass list runs to around 20, with half that again in 75 ml saké pours. Aside from the natural overlay, Dromgool has taken the simple route of listing wines that he likes in the moment, rather than constructing a list that ticks particular boxes. Eschewing varietal listing, the wines are categorised into groups headed with pithy descriptions: “light & fresh,” “mid-weight & complex,” “oxidative” etc.
The original brief of wine bar is underlined by some industrial austerity, which is softened with honeyed timber furniture, coppery highlights and ubiquitous flashes of Carrara marble. There are canteen-like communal tables, and the wine offer is laid out across a grid of copper-framed shelves. And though Lindsay and Dromgool have maintained that Poly is emphatically a wine bar, it is unquestionably also a food destination.
Like Ester, the kitchen at Poly (Poly… Ester… get it) has a red-hot heart of burning coals, with a modest kitchen surrounding. The custom wood-burning hearth is multi-faceted, with the capacity to grill over coals, as well as smoke and roast slowly. Formerly the sous chef at Ester, Isabelle Caulfield takes the lead here, with her and Lindsay crafting an agile, ever-changing menu that acknowledges some Ester classics, but also very much makes its own way. And while Poly was designed as a “bar with snacks,” Sydneysiders have ensured that the pigeonhole of a kitchen has had to work somewhat harder than that brief would suggest.