Bars and Nightclubs
Inner West, Sydney

Bench Wine Bar

503-511 King St, Newtown
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This industrial chic boutique bar is one small step from a King Street cab into a haven of soft jazz, mood lighting & classic cocktails offering innovative food & a smattering of accessibly priced antipodean & old world wines; bench bar just feels easy. Do it!

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Bench Wine Bar Review

Review by Natalie Sutherland

A newbie on the long-established Newtown scene, Bench is a sophisticatedly chic wine bar nestled in the south end of King Street, Newtown. Like many of the other small bars opening on this bohemian side of town (like Moose and Bloodwood), the Bench Wine Bar is in a class all of its own. Stepping off the noisy curb of King Street and into the bar is much like being transported into another world – one of darkened secrets, sensual jazz sounds and the soft thrill of evening fun.

Inspired by “industrial chic” designs, with long tables, metallic seats and classic lamps suspending ever so quietly from the roof, Bench is surprisingly modest once you step inside. You’d expect a little pretentiousness in such a trendy establishment, but there’s clearly none of that here. It’s got the look of a modish, mood-lit, Oxford Street or Kings Cross bar, but underneath is a heart of down-to-earth intimacy and relaxing comfort.

All of this is largely thanks to owner, Robyn Thomas and bar manage-cocktail legend, Robert Long who, having spent years in the restaurant and bar industry, have both created a sensational approach to their customers – genuine friendliness. The staff service in this bar is so inviting it almost feels as if you’re part of the family – which you kind of are – and believe it or not, it’s actually refreshing to feel this way, for a change, on a night out in Sydney. The vibe trickles down from everything – from the welcoming service, to the gorgeous, grape-replica wine rack and the black, hand-sewn material coasters. Many bars exude sophisticated, designer style (‘Ivy’ springs to mind, for instance), but few make you feel, within minutes, as if you actually belong.

Having chosen your seats, it won’t take you long to relax and slip into the mood – nor to discover that Bench’s wine and drinks selection is superb. There is something to please every palette, from hand-picked Cabernet Sauvignons and Semillons to a small yet eclectic choice of beers. The bar also features a classic selection of cocktails, alongside a few unique ones, and cocktail lovers can head down on Sundays from 4pm for $10 cocktail treats all round.

The ‘Bench Bites’ food selection is slight upon first glimpse, but that’s not say that quantity replaces quality. The tapas-style offerings are enough to get your heart pumping and each plate on the menu is finished brilliantly with a suggestion for a complementing wine – a rarity unless you’re at a large restaurant and a sign that the staff have actually put a lot of effort into the Bench experience. Once you’ve tried one plate, though, it’s quite hard to resist ordering another. If you find that tapas still doesn’t suffice, the “Pizz-a-Trois” choices are delicious – tomato, torn basil and mozzarella is our favourite, but you can also sample the turkey, spanish onion and cranberry or the three-cheese with green peppercorns. And if you’ve ever been to Pizza Picasso, Bench’s sister restaurant next door, you’ll know that the pizzas are worth every mouthful (and, on Wednesday evenings, they’re $10).

Needless to say, the Bench Wine Bar is proving to be a popular hidden secret in Newtown’s south end. Walk past just an hour after opening and it’s usually packed, particularly with locals wanting a few, trendy pre-dinner drinks. That said, it’s an equally splendid place to settle in for the evening, either with a group of friends or a cosy partner.

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