Bar Lucia, located in the old site of Casa Merida in Potts Point, opened on 3 February, and marked the first venue in Milpa Collective’s new sibling group, Vina Collective.
Bars and Clubs asked Milpa co-founders, Pablo Galindo and Liber Osorio, why the group had decided to introduce this new venue group, and what had prompted the wine bar focus.
“As a chef and restaurateur, I have become extremely interested in wine, particularly the story behind Australian wines and wine makers. Visiting different wine regions and meeting great winemakers made me re-think the concepts we were doing,” says Pablo.
Previously, the venue was the location of Casa Merida, a Mexican restaurant with a bar that leant heavily on agave spirits.
“I was trying to explore beyond the mezcal/agave world that we are familiar with because our background and also because the nature of Milpa Collective venues,” Pablo outlines.
“During lockdown, I enjoyed wine tasting with many of my sommelier friends and developed a deeper understanding of the diversity and variety of wines. Thus, the sister brand Vina Collective was born.
“We want to expand our hospitality offering with an opulent selection of wine bars alongside simple yet thoughtful menu focusing on quality, sustainability and also fun.”
Liber tells Bars and Clubs that the Spanish tapas concept of the new venue responded to a gap in the Potts Point hospitality offering.
“Covid prompted us to rethink the restaurant concept. A shortage of staff for the whole hospitality industry and the Mexican style was not the best fit for this location.
“Plus, we feel there is an opportunity to recreate some of the opulent wine bars in Madrid, in Sydney. With a classic range of Spanish tapas style plates and an assortment of graceful yet sultry selection of wines. We understand what Spanish Food is because of our Latin Background, we are a (forced) mix between indigenous and Spanish culture,” Liber continues.
The venue was transformed from Mexican restaurant to Spanish tapas bar in a matter of months.
“We were able to turn it around relatively quickly – two to three months. Interior Designer Imogen Reed was tasked to bring the Milpa Collective vision to life,” Liber says.
The wine bar is described as ‘a European Patisserie meets Latin Bonbonniere and a Juice Shop that meets a Flower Shop.’ Imogen, who has a background in fine arts and formal design studies from her time in Milan, was able to translate her bold ideas onto the walls of the venue, conveying ‘femineity’, while retaining the wine shop meets bodega-deli feel.
Bar Lucia has strong focus on wine, centred around supporting Australian producers, especially female winemakers based in New South Wales. The by-the-glass wine menu contains wines almost exclusively created by women. Liber explains how this list was developed.
“Initially, we were driven by Spanish Food and wines, but working with Kasia Sobiesiak made things more interesting. Australia has so many good winemakers that work in different varieties and care about the land and the winemaking process that we shouldn’t be looking at Europe to find real inspiration.”
Head Sommelier Kasia is also a freelance wine writer, wine educator, and holds a master’s degree in environmental engineering – giving her great insight into the sustainability and production of wines.
“Kasia works closely with female winemakers in Australia, so it makes sense for her and us to work on the menu,” Liber says.
The menu itself is presented in an accessible manner, with wine categories divided by body and style, allowing guests to more easily find their preferences, and pair them with tapas dishes.
And there’s a small, yet exciting cocktail menu, produced by Head Bartender Luna Ercoli. This menu is divided by flavour profile, with ‘umami’, ‘sweet’ (a cheesecake themed cocktail – see the recipe below), ‘sour’ and ‘bitter’.
- 55ml cream cheese vodka (see insructions below)
- 30ml cranberry shrub (see instructions below)
- A barspoon of blueberry marmalade
- 15ml aquafaba
- For the cream cheese vodka: combine 500ml Wibrowa Vodka with 125g of cream cheese, and cook in the sous vide for two hours at 62 degrees
- For the cranberry shrub: combine 50ml cranberry juice with 180ml simple syrup, 60ml apple cider vinegar, 100g blueberry fruit – allow to infuse for six hours and strain
- To make the cocktail: combine the ingredients in a shaker
- Dry shake without ice for ten seconds
- Add ice and shake again for another ten seconds
- Fine strain into a chilled coupe
Most eye catching of all is a drink called ‘Dos de Picas’, which translates as ‘the two of spades’. When guests order this drink, they will be asked to shuffle a deck of cards twice, and pick a card. If they select the two of spades, they’ll win a taste of Bar Lucia’s favourite sherry. Luna believes it is important to bring a sense of theatre to the hospitality experience.
“Theatre is an art and a representation of our reality, more exaggerated with even more drama, but it is a show where we laugh and cry about our human happiness and sorrows.
“Visiting a restaurant/bar is part of our life and reality; it is also an experience where we open our senses to new experiences, and that’s when we see is vital to play, to interact with the customers to elevate the experience, to make them participants of their own theatre,” Luna concludes.
All images by Kitti Gould.
Bar Lucia is located at 5 Kellett St, Potts Point, and is open from 5pm Tuesday – Friday, and from noon on weekends.