Surry Hills’ Mille Vini (or, as it was momentarily renamed, MV Bistro and Bar), has had its fair share of owners over the years. Now, the Crown Street venue has landed in the hands of Esper Hospitality, which has relaunched Mille Vini with hopes to return it to its heyday, when it was a go-to wine bar for locals.
“[Locals] loved it; they loved the nostalgia of when it first opened and then it lost its way along the journey, so we very much want to bring it back to what the community remembers it to be,” Esper Hospitality co-founder David Veksler tells Broadsheet.
Esper Hospitality also owns nearby Caribbean-inspired venue Rosie Campbell’s and Bondi Beach’s Mama Saan, which has also recently undergone its own rejig. According to Veksler, adding Mille Vini to the portfolio was a happy accident.
“Sam Lehain, one of the other business partners of Esper, he runs a wellness clinic called Bionik in Surry Hills and he basically became friends with all the neighbours and the community, and through word-of-mouth … we found that the owners were kind of losing faith [in the venue] … and then the sale happened,” he says.
Unlike the old days, when the bar’s walls were lined with bottles of wine, the new owners have decided to highlight the historic features of the 1840s building. They’ve decluttered the space so its sandstone walls are exposed, while using leather, deep ocean-blue marble and dark timber to bring in some warmth.
“We want it to feel like it’s an extension of someone's home. It’s as if you’re going into your mate’s living room for a giant glass of wine and really simple food for dinner,” Veksler says.
The kitchen is headed up by Francesco Di Gioia (Fred’s, Charlie Parker’s, Riley Street Cafe & Wine), whose menu focuses on classic Italian recipes. For starters, there’s a colourful crudite platter using locally sourced seasonal vegetables, battered zucchini flower with truffle pecorino and blossom honey from the Blue Mountains, and a poached octopus and shaved fennel salad.
A rotating selection of pastas and mains offer a heartier meal, such as squid-ink spaghetti with vongole (mussels), lemon and house-made bottarga, and orecchiette with pancetta, lovage and fresh tomato.
The wine list is no longer the length of an encyclopedia (Mille Vini translates as “one thousand wines” from Italian), but there’s still a generous selection of Italian and locally produced natural and sustainable Italian varietals. The range of cocktails, meanwhile, is made with seasonal ingredients, including the signature Mamma Mia made with fresh watermelon with Tanqueray gin and bianco vermouth.
397 Crown Street, Surry Hills
(02) 7252 3083
Mon to Thu 5pm–late