Surry Hills is infamous for its quirky and wonderful restaurants, bars and cafes. Guaranteed on a Saturday night, each of those bars, cafes and restaurants is packed to the brim, parking is an almost impossible feat and people are spilling out of the doorways waiting for a table.
This Saturday, we took a chance on The Winery.
With its elegant name and fairytale-worthy setting, one’s standards are set extraordinarily high, expecting a decadent selection of wines, a hearty menu and excellent service. You’re half-expecting a vineyard in Surry Hills. It looks really pretty. The garden is lit up with fairy lights and there are wrought iron benches and tables littered around.
As you walk along the cobblestone path, you pass by an elevated platform which is packed with tables for two lined against the fence, up a few stairs and you’re in the inside section, down a few more and you’re in an outdoor seating area adjacent to the garden. It’s slightly blocked in by glass walls, and heated with outdoor gas heaters, with lounger seats and marble tables everywhere.
This is where it begins. A group of eight is not so easy to sit, but upon arrival, we gave our name and a phone number and asked them to give us a call when a table that could seat us comfortably became available.
An hour later, we got the phone call.
And were squeezed into a corner table, with the promise that when the table beside us, two ladies who had just paid their bill and were “on their way out”, was vacated, we could slide those two tables together and sit comfortably.
It was about 10pm by this point.
At 10:20pm, the waitresses, who hadn’t come around since seating us, walked over to inform us that the kitchen was closing at 10:30pm, and we needed to put our order in if we were dining. Considering that was the whole reason we had ventured out to the winery, in a mad rush we ordered:- entrees, mains and desserts in a mad rush, topped off with cocktails and soft drinks.
The table beside us vacated at about 10:40pm and the waitress that had said we would be spread out onto their table quickly came over, wiped it down and placed a “Reserved” sign upon it, with a group of three people coming along and making themselves comfortable.
We informed the waitress of what had been said but she just said something along the lines of “sorry, can’t help you.” and walked away.
Fast forward another ten to fifteen minutes and our food begins to come out, all in one go. Eight people, twelve dishes and a table about 2m x 1m, and you tell me how this works.
To say we were eating on top of each other would have been an understatement. Somehow we managed to fit two steaks, three sausage ragus, a grilled chicken salad, oysters and a multitude of entrees plus our drinks on this tiny table.
They’d forgotten about my cocktail – a virgin lychee concoction (perks of being designated driver) and the waitress took forever to come back to take any further orders for drinks or to see if we were ok.
All of this would have been somewhat excusable if the food had been great. But aside from the Porcini Arancini (balls of goats cheese, parmesan and gorgonzola served with aioli), the Sausage Roll (made of veal and chorizo) and the Organic Sourdough (can you really go wrong with bread), there wasn’t much to write home about.
The penne with the ragu was under and the steaks lacked something.
Dessert was an okay affair, with “homemade cannoli” filled with cream rather than custard or ricotta and a brownie served with salted caramel ice-cream (which was actually the hero of the meal).
Closing time was almost upon us, so we wrapped up, split the bill, and called it a night. At $60-odd a head including drinks, it was an okay meal. For less, I have had better.
I probably would not go back to The Winery again, or I would make a booking from way early on. The atmosphere is nice, and the drinks are quite good, but I’m not a fan of overcrowding a place. If you don’t have room to seat a group of people, just let us know. We would have been more than happy to walk a few doors down and find somewhere else to enjoy our night, giving us a chance to come back and visit you guys when you actually have space.
Overall, 6/10. Thanks to salted caramel ice-cream and porcini arancini.