A brilliant and relaxed local for great wine, cocktails and fun times, with the decided advantage of One Penny Road sending all the food up the stairs to the hungry drinkers.
The regular’s tip
Grab a seat on the corner terrace for a great vantage point for people watching.
Vernon’s Bar, the first-floor wine bar above sister restaurant One Penny Red, takes its name from Walter Liberty Vernon, the state government architect who designed the building (then the Summer Hill Post Office) in 1901.
Sommelier David Murphy, chef R.J. Lines and general manager Nina Alidenes added the upstairs space in 2016 as “a small welcoming, sophisticated bar for inner west locals,” Murphy says. The name felt like “a great way to honour the heritage of the building”.
The trio preserved many of the original fixtures, including the hoist which lifted the mail bags to the first floor for sorting, while adding some comfortable touches. Framed rare stamps line the walls, along with mustard-yellow leather banquettes. The sandstone balcony, which seats 18, looks out over Summer Hill’s leafy streets. Murphy says locals often call out from the street below to say hello to their friends upstairs.
Almost half of the 70-bottle wine list is available by the glass, with Coravin used for premium pours, giving the same locals plenty of reason to return. Murphy draws on over 20 years in the industry, including time in London at Michelin starred Lindsay House and Nobu on Park Lane, for the drinks menu. It leans on the One Penny Lane wine list and is mostly Eurocentric (France, Spain, Italy) mixed with local lo-fi legends. The bar comes into its own with the cocktail menu, marked up as “fancy drinks”, think basil-infused gimlet and kiwi-accented (the fruit, not the nationality) paloma.
Friendly staff run food up from the kitchen downstairs, with mostly small plates, such as pickles, parfait and tartare, alongside larger dishes like roast chicken and smoked short ribs. Murphy says the burger is a drawcard. “Two items that we are not allowed to take off the menu are the salt cod fritters with smoked chilli mayo and the Vernon’s cheeseburger,” he says. You can double the beef and the cheese, although Murphy says it perhaps should come with a health warning.
Like most wine bars that act as holding rooms for adjacent restaurants, Vernon’s is walk-in focused, but there are a few bookable tables for those who prefer to secure a spot. Chances are you will bump into someone you know, and an afternoon could easily turn into an evening.