Leading Sydney sommelier opens She Loves You in Newtown

Owners Stephen Smooker and Sophie Otton (left) with the rest of the team.

Owners Stephen Smooker and Sophie Otton (left) with the rest of the team.

Expect quaffable, fun drinks with deliciousness and accessibility to the fore when Billy Kwong's sommelier opens her new bar.

Could Newtown be Australia's next hottest wine destination? The inner-city Sydney suburb is home to a super-hip bottle-o, you can score Radikon by the glass at Earl's Juke Joint, and now the temperature is rising higher still with the arrival of a new wine bar from one of the city's top somms, with one of the world's biggest names in cocktails along for the ride.

She Loves You is a 30-seat wine bar opened by Sophie Otton, the sommelier at Billy Kwong. Along with plenty of interesting wine, She Loves You might also boast some of the city's best cocktails. Otton has recruited New York mixologist Eben Freeman, formerly of WD-50 and Genuine Liquorette, to write the core cocktail list. Freeman's cocktails reflect "what's going on trend-wise in New York", says Otton, but will use more local Australian ingredients to better suit the Newtown neighbourhood vibe

Otton acquired the site, formerly Doris and Beryl's Bridge Club & Tea House, in March last year, but stayed tight-lipped on the relaunch until now. Since then, it's been business as usual at the bar and Otton has barely touched a thing. "It felt very much like the old Newtown," she says. "It's not all 'grammed-up. People come in for cocktails and to play cards and board games. They're not on their phones. They're enjoying each other's company. We wanted to build on that for She Loves You."

Now the shelves read like a who's who of boutique Australian spirits: Archie Rose and Old Tom are both there, along with Maidenii vermouths, Applewood amaro and more. Classic cocktails are given a native twist: there's a Dark and Stormy with desert lime, for instance, and a Red Økar Spritz made with a dry Jilly rosé from Clunes, New South Wales, and soda in place of the usual sparkling. There are also beers from the nearby Wildflower Brewery in Marrickville.

And the wine? Otton is focusing on affordable, mostly Australian wines. The 20-bottle list leans natural and at least half will be available by the glass for between $10 and $16. "I've done a lot of serious wine lists and I just want to put things on that are quaffable and fun," she says. Expect the likes of Frederick Stevenson's aromatic riesling from the Clare Valley or a sauvignon blanc from the Loire Valley, for starters, along with plenty of gently chilled and savoury reds such as Patrick Underwood's Little Reddie and Ochota Barrels' Fugazi grenache. Otton will keep a couple of special labels up her sleeve for anyone who wants to dive a little deeper into the pocket, but for the most part, it's all about keeping it inclusive. "It's expensive to have a night out," she says. "Deliciousness and accessibility - that's what really drives me."

There's no kitchen proper at She Loves You so as far as eats go, it's a case of roasted nuts, cheese, pickles and the like. Or guests can bring in food from takeaway restaurants nearby (Otton's vote is pasta from Nonna Gio, two doors down, or Maltese treats from Pastizzi Café, across the road).

Catch a preview of She Loves You at Kylie Kwong's upcoming Carriageworks Night Market on 9 February; Otton says she expects the official début before the end of February.

She Loves You, 530 King St, Newtown, NSW (website to come); Tue-Fri 5pm-midnight, Sat-Sun 3pm-midnight.


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