Varnish is one of our favourite small bars, and we dropped in during the week for lunch – Lady FWO was stocking her dress shop from the various wholesalers in King Street, so Varnish seemed perfectly located for a stopover. Awarded the Best Small Bar in Australia award last year it is well worth a visit.


Varnish has a wonderful range of American whiskey and if that is your preferred tipple you should get along there, if you haven’t already – and if you want an introduction to the pleasures of whiskey then this is surely the spot – they also run Master Classes to improve your knowledge of the drop.


The wine list is well put together, with a good range from Australia and overseas, with around 12 available by the glass; however since last we went it seems they have dropped rosé by the glass – forsooth that is something that needs quick remedy! Lady FWO was hyperventilating! (Luckily there was an unfinished bottle languishing in the fridge so she was able to get one glass to sooth her shattered nerves.) I was happy with the Riesling on offer.


The menu is small but interesting, and geared towards small share plates; and the pickle backs – a whiskey accompanied by a select pickle are well worth considering.


Anyway, on to lunch, we ordered the Bits and Bob plate, smoked prawns and a salad of grilled witlof, along with a glass or two of 2014 Mesh Riesling for me, and 2012 Arlewood Cabernet Merlot for Lady FWO.


The plate consisted of serrano ham, pickles, crusty rye bread and a nice slab of cheese. The ham was salty and tender; the cheese mild and crumbly, while the pickled vegetables added a little sharpness.


The prawns, Moreton Bay sourced, had an intense and enticing aroma of smoke which carried through to the taste, they were tender and moist – served with avocado jelly, diced apple, and fish roe. It was a nicely presented, light meal, full of flavour.


Our salad of grilled witlof, pickled jalapenos, white and black fungi, lime curd and diced apple brought a range of contrasting tastes and textures together – slight bitterness from the witlof, zesty heat and vinegar hints from the jalapenos, creamy citrus notes from the curd, and sweet crunchy apple.


It was a very refreshing side.


Still with a little hunger, we decided to sample the whiskey baba, whiskey soaked cake, accompanied by dollops of cream, and a sprinkling of nuts….a lovely sweet end to our meal.


Varnish continues to impress with an interesting and innovative menu of light meals and snacks, together with its fantastic array of whiskey and well-constructed wine list, all brought together in a sophisticated and welcoming atmosphere. Excellent waiters, too – it is recommended.

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  1. Bjorn Anthony says

    You’re kidding…….forsooth……?
    Hope the Lady in your life doesnt speak/write like that down in Guildford…..

    Another good post.

  2. says

    I went along to a Goaty Hill Wines tasting last Tuesday (04/08). This was my first visit to Varnish and I was so impressed that I booked for Tracey and myself to have dinner there on Saturday night. the place looked comfortably warm and swish.

    Saturday night came along in its very bleak form after experiencing small hail stones on the golf course during the arvo. We arrived under the umbrella to be delayed at the street door for the security people to check our booking on the list. I asked why this can’t be done in the little foyer before venturing down to the bar. The answer was “we are not allowed”!!!!!

    As we went down stairs the noise of the music was deafening and to struggle through the bar crowd to wait to be seated was very disappointing and gave us a feeling that the place was only a pub – trying to cram in as many patrons as possible.

    We settled down with a sigh and ordered a lovely Bordeaux red.

    The noise was persistently high and made it extremely difficult to hear the wait staff. Finally we understood the menu and ordered the Bits and Bob plate – just like FWO! The was devoid of the pickles but all other components were present and in good taste. This was consumed while we waited for our main meal – being the slow cooked veal rib along with a side dish of green beans with a white bean puree. All very generous and so so enviting.

    My conclusion is that one should try the Goaty Hill wines from Tasmania – especially the reisling (a very European tasting drop) and probably best to experience varnish on a week night for dinner.

    • The FWO says

      I have heard it is very popular at night and this confirms that. Lunch is much quieter and probably more conducive to eating, while Saturday nights perhaps it is more bar than eating house. However the food is always good and with the wine and whiskey make it well worth a visit…try lunch first, however

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