There’s nothing stuffy about Aubergine, just a cool refinement that runs right through it. Tablecloths surrender to the warmth of polished timber, dark walls and charcoal carpet cocoon, and the high-backed chairs of old have been replaced with a mid-century vibe, as has the cabinetry.
The Northern Territory isn’t the first place that comes to mind when one thinks of wine, or wine bars. In fact, it’s likely that Stone House Wine Bar & Kitchen, in Darwin, is probably the first. At least the first that one might easily recognise as such once through the front door. Founded by Rebecca Bullen in 2016 in a heritage listed stone terrace on Cavenagh St, it has nestled very comfortably and very quickly into what is typically regarded as more of a beer-loving culture.
Stone House was founded as a northern sibling of Bullen’s Melbourne wine bar, Cohen Cellars, and is the bigger of the two venues, with twice the capacity of its southern sister. It also comes with a good slice of history, which is echoed in the artfully distressed render on the walls, a palimpsest chronicling the building’s history. Starting as an opium den in the 1880s, it endured an unexploded bomb in the back garden and bullet holes in the walls from the Japanese bombing during WWII, as well as having its roof ripped off during Cyclone Tracy.
Stone House would slip quite comfortably into any of this country’s major cities, with a timeless wine bar feel and a deeply thoughtful offer. The wine list traverses about 300 listings, both domestic and imported, with about 25 by the glass. And the Coravin revolution has well and truly made it to Darwin, too, with half a dozen or so premium pours available. Bullen also exclusively imports wine, with forays into Europe and the United States resulting in containers of wine heading back for her venues. And for those more connected with beer, as may happen, there is strong selection of craft beers, with eight on tap. Food mainly follows a grazing route, with charcuterie, imported cheeses, dips, bruschetta, sliders and the like filling the offer.