Hatted Soul Dining launches it’s newest venture – Bar Soul, Sydney’s first Korean Tapas Wine bar with a Bennelong Alumni chef

Situated on the corner of Campbell and Denham street, Bar Soul glows golden in the night sky. I haven’t been this excited about a review in ages. There was no need for my Google diary reminder, I have been counting down the weeks, days and hours.

When I first tasted the food at Soul Group’s Soul Dining it was like a tectonic shift in the dining scene and we called out that this should be Australia’s next hatted restaurant – Ha! it was. Then came Soul Deli, (now moved to ADGE Hotel) and in its place is a new temple to worship wine and Korean flavours.

Soul is elegant, feminine and looks and feels like a European bistro with wooden floors, sand coloured banquettes, sheer curtains gracing large windows and candles flickering. Run by an impossibly lovely husband and wife duo who just ooze hospitality, it’s not hard to see that this is Illa Kim’s baby, the guiding force behind Bar Soul. It’s got a woman’s touch. If they run out of candles Illa’s smile will light up any room.

Whilst Bennelong Alumni chef Sunny Ryu hands are on the pans and my nose is buried in the wine menu. Korean food hasn’t had a history of wine pairing which has given Illa and the team a riotous opportunity to create the genre. My first glass is from the ‘sparkling section’. Menti Marcobarba Frizzante is a challenging blend of Garganega grapes (90%), Muscat, Trebbiano, Moscaso, Riesling and the prosecco grape Glera. These winemakers are seriously into biodynamic agriculture, the grapes are hand-harvested with first fermentation with completely natural yeast. If you are a lover of the pet nat style, then this is for you, or you might think it’s, well a bit funky!

Gangdoenjang dip with crackers

But funky is as funky does – it goes brilliantly with ‘Gangdoenjang’ it’s made with a fermented soybean paste doenjang and is a thick Korean soybean dip. Traditionally its served as a stew served up with lettuce. Here, its more refined with matchstick topping of zuchinni, carrot and parsnip paired with scrumptious housemade barley crackers.

The corn cheese croquettes ($8 each) are something that could potentially bankrupt me. It’s the perfect blend of crunchy outsides and (like a softly poached egg), a slice of the knife allows the amber oozy, creamy goodness to flow onto the plate. It takes all my will power not to pick up the dish and lick it clean, the only option is to relive that moment all over again with one more. A wand of octopus arrives – a single skewer of charry cephalopod is spotted with pickled perilla leaf, but its the coating of crispy garlic chips that make it look like a nutty almond Magnum on steroids.

Onwards to a glass of Bruno Lafon ‘Le P’tit Chardo, Chardonnay, from the Burgundy region. Its relatively high altitude creates a tautness in the wine. Not so the premium wines under Coravin, 2021 Swan Valley Wines ‘Golden Triangle’, an edgy family owned vineyard producing natural wines. It’s not buttery or hugely oaky in the traditional sense but think pineapple, peaches and bold fruit flavours

scallop crudo

A beautiful plate of layered radish scales hides sweet thin slices of scallop crudo, sitting onto of a delicate Korean ajo blanco sauce of garlic almond puree. The balance and creativity is an elegant mouthful. Perhaps my favourite dish of the night is the dry aged Murray cod; two Scrabble piece-like squares are the star, savoury, sweet, oh so white and flakey with a soubise. It is twinned with a magnificent flavour bomb of hand-rolled Korean pasta which is a pocket of chewy, fun thanks to lashings of cavolo nero pesto.

half spatchcock

We finish with a fried half spatchcock which we would like to pick up with our fingers and gnaw ourselves into oblivion, but we opt for knives which reveal juicy brined flesh, the charred spring onions bring a layer of sweetness which melds into a creamy sweet rice risotto. It’s all connected by an aromatic, rich master stock chicken jus.

The drinks list is so much fun, from cocktails to Korean beers (7Brau), to low alchohol drops and rice wines. There is a glass for every person.

Unlike Soul Dining which is a hedonistic romp of a meal with big, bold flavours, unashamadly, uniquely contemporary Korean, Bar Soul feels more like a skip through the fields of Europe with a Korean buddy who just can’t help but mess with your head and palate in a way you want to do it all again. Big thumbs up from us.

Bar Soul, Shop 1&2, 185 Campbell Street, Surry Hills
Hours: Mon – Sun breakfast & lunch: 7.30AM – 2.30PM, Tapas: Tue-Thurs 5.30PM- 10.30, Fri – Sat 5.30PM-11PM

About the author

Karen’s corporate job back in the UK had included entertaining clients in some of the best restaurants. This ultimately sparked a curiosity 'Just how do they do that?' (she confesses she was brought up on meat and vegetables, so this was all very exciting). Currently a Mr & Mrs Smith 'Tastemaker', she’s flashpacked around the world, learning about wine, experiencing different cultures and cuisines and had a two- year love affair with it all. Originally from England, she finally settled in Australia and continues to be besotted by food, wine and travel preferring to focus on the luxury end of town (thread count does matter).


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