Those familiar with chef Clinton McIver's Armadale diner Amaru won't be shocked the bar snacks at Auterra, his new wine bar just up the road, are in a different stratosphere to cheese and charcuterie. McIver's knack for precise, complex flavour bombs is focused on finger food at Auterra and the strike ratio is impressive, sometimes nudging spectacular. If you come hungry, the snack list can be retrofitted as a fuss-free, cutlery-free dégustation.
Word of advice? Come hungry.
It's tricky to play favourites (another reason to eat the lot), but the Port Arlington mussel, steamed in its shell, flavoured with XO oil and a yeasty-savoury rye bread mayonnaise and bundled in a lacto-fermented radicchio leaf will have your tastebuds high-fiving each other as the salty, sweet, oceanic, bitter, earthy wave washes over them.
Similar rejoicing might accompany the smoked kangaroo tartare sitting on a finger of rye and caraway sourdough, flavoured with anchovy and green olive mayo and finished with salty, complex microplaned 'roo biltong. Same goes for the irresistible, smoky brilliance of binchotan-grilled octopus accompanied by an umami-tart bush tomato and desert lime-flavoured sauce.
Auterra's wine list, pulled together by well-versed and refreshingly chilled manager and sommelier Jenna Phillpott, is up for the task of bringing out the best in the big-flavoured snacks.
A Coravin system enables the synergy between the elegant 2012 Domaine d'Henri premier cru chablis and a crumbed king prawn sandwich teamed with a spicy creamy kimchi mayo. There's further chemistry between non-vintage Champagne Fleury and freshly shucked oysters elevated with soy-spiked charred cucumber dressing.
The room, designed by Iva Foschia with trademark retro-mod elegance (shimmering copper on tables, bar and light fittings, half-curtain in the front window, pastel colours, banquettes) can get raucous as the crowd swells and the wine kicks in. But other than the absence of sound-baffling, it nails the urbane, smart-casual theme.
With a menu that shamelessly flaunts both a spanner crab doughnut and a boudin blanc hot dog with rice wine pickled and grilled onions, a cheese course that is Comté custard stuffed into an éclair and a showstopping shiitake mushroom sundae dessert, it's hard to resist going the full monty. And why should you? You can always be more restrained next time.
Reservations for Auterra are now available online from October 26, 2021.