dunedin restaurant


Sunday Star Times Magazine - 23 April 2006

Dunedin's Bacchus is calm and composed - and the food's not bad either, says Simon Cunliffe. The understated sophistication of Bacchus Wine Bar greets you as you wander in off Stuart Street and up the wide staircase of one of Dunedin's elegant old buildings. In contrast to the claustrophobic and vault-like bars that conquer the the street frontages below, the feeling here is of lightness and space - the latter surprising because there isn't all hat much space at all.

It's all in the classical architecture: the high studs, the ceiling roses and ornate cornicing; the polished wooden flooring; the generous double-hung sash windows which look out over the Octagon in the heart of the city. In a world of cut-price building materials, low ceilings and zany decor, Bacchus has a self-possessed aura of timelessness. It's an oasis in a desert of stage-managed modernity. That simplicity carries over into its menu. It is the sort of place that may not win Michelin stars for finesse, nor whatever other gongs are going for innovation, but it knows its onions, and prepares them in an accomplished manner.

On a recent spur-of-the-moment visit I settled in with a glass of Carrick Central Otago Pinot Noir ($12.50) form the discerning wine list. My companion tried the Nautilus Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc ($8). We ordered dips (tapenade and tasty anchovy and dried tomato pesto) and ciabatta ($8.50), and an entree of marinated squid salad with a melon and peanut salsa ($14.50). Both were tasty, the squid being particularly successful.