Located in the old Search and Rescue building directly opposite the Palais Theatre, just metres from the beach and Luna Park, Phamish is not only a fantastic place to stop by before a show or stroll on the sand, but is a destination in itself. Deviating from the traditional wine bar set up, Phamish incorporates a few pseudo post-modernist elements in its design, injecting eclectic, open style while maintaining the functionality of the space.
The dining area extends onto the Esplanade for sunny lunches and après-work drinks, yet can cater to moderately sized functions inside (up to one hundred and twenty guests) and more intimate boutique-style bookings in the private dining room (seating ten to eighteen guests). This focus on resourceful use of space is a differentiating feature of the wine bar, with many older venues of that class being comprised almost solely of cramped, dimly lit corridors of leather stools. While undeniably and successfully positioning itself as a guru of the grape (the wine list is a Gourmet Traveller finalist), Phamish has managed to evolve outside conventional limitations by incorporating the more desirable elements of café design.
Expanding on the virtue of versatility, Phamish also holds another ace rarely played by standard wine bars – breakfast. Serving the early bird crowd seven days a week, this atypical approach to the workings of a wine bar has helped to set the establishment apart. It's a shrewd move from owners Nicole and Michelle Saade, but perhaps not one that should be wholly unexpected, given their wealth of familiarity with the industry. While Phamish is the first venture the enterprising sisters have developed on their own, they come from a firm foundation of restaurateur know-how, their father having opened fifty-five restaurants in the past forty years.
The experience of essentially growing up in the business has assisted the Saade sisters in cultivating a credible reputation for food and wine with alacrity, and in creating a relaxed atmosphere that is still vibrant and sophisticated. Supporting them in this is head chef Themi Milikouros, described by Nicole as "young and energetic", a star in the kitchen who particularly shines at crafting superb breakfasts.
Quite appropriately though, while the breakfast menu is available through to the afternoon, it is only the beginning of what the bar has to offer. Phamish serves up varied Modern Australian cuisine with a subtle Middle Eastern bent all day long and well into the evening, including such dishes as the colourful roast beetroot risotto, gnocchi prosciutto, blue swimmer crab linguini, rockling and chips with house-made tartare sauce, eye fillet on spring onion mash with Dutch carrots, and an extensive range of tapas and wood-fire pizzas.
For a midday repast Monday to Friday, Phamish also offers its Corporate Xpress Lunch of selected starters and mains with a glass of wine for $25, which is exceedingly good value but may leave patrons so far from famished that they won't be able to sample the range of Phamish desserts and cakes – at least not until later in the day.
With its prime position and focus on quality food and wine, Phamish is well on its way to becoming an icon of the Esplanade - especially with free Friday night wine tastings to be scheduled later in the year.