Until he opened La Lune Wine Co, Paul Mc Givern was perhaps best known for his exploits on the fine dining scene, notably at East Brisbane’s The Wolfe, which achieved its fair share of critical acclaim. And though McGivern has pushed again into that sphere, with the opening of his eagerly anticipated Corella, at the…
Brothers Julian and Dominic Abouzeid opened their Marrickville wine bar, Where’s Nick, in 2017, with the third brother taking naming rights only. The story, as they tell it, was that the project was built around the three siblings, but Nick insists he never agreed to be involved. As they say, “he [said he] wanted nothing to do with it and would we please stop calling him.”
Nick’s likeness formed the identity of the brand, and his face pops up throughout the bar. You’ll occasionally spot him in the wild, too, as it seems his unwillingness to be involved doesn’t stretch to not being a customer. That sense of humour underpins the bar, with a lack of pretension underscoring all, from the humble location – an unassuming shopfront on Marrickville Road – to the homespun interior.
And that resistance to being cool is a good part of the charm, especially with a compelling wine list of some undeniably cool wines. Those wines are very much down a minimal-intervention line, with organic producers predominating, with selections as much centred on wine quality as they are on genuinely sustainable industry practices.
Somewhat unusual for Sydney, prices are remarkably low, with accessibility very much a manifest of the bar. For five years, Julian was the buyer for the Oak Barrel bottle store, a destination for hard-to-find lo-fi and ‘natural’ rarities and a haven for craft beers. Although Where’s Nick very much opened as a wine bar, that wine shop pricing very much crossed over, and it’s remained the case, with an ongoing mission to cut through any attendant snobbery and hype.
The room is an eclectic mix of the recycled and repurposed, with the bar clad in timber cast-offs and the seating provided by a flotilla of mismatched chairs and sofas. “[It’s] a casual, personal and slightly weird setting,” says Julian. A mural that recalls Picasso’s Guernica if painted by Reg Mombassa, and a somewhat crude rendering of Jacques-Louis David’s Napoleon with the little general bearing Nick’s face – of course – support that view.
With a push into slightly more substantial food offerings and the natural extension of the wine bar as a wine store, the brothers have hired Bridget Raffal, the ex-Head Sommelier of Sixpenny. Raffal now manages the business, as well as the buying alongside Julian. The current wine collection ranges across about 250 listings, with 20 by the glass. “Minimal intervention with organic the focus and nothing dirty,” says Julian, “No mice. Roughly a third local … but beyond the usual cult stars.” There is also a strong range of independent spirits, cider and beer to choose from.