Come to ZIGI's Art Wine and Cheese Bar on a Saturday night, and leave feeling full and satisfied. Zigi Ozeri is one passionate foodie - who loves art, wine and cheese simultaneously. He loves people too. It shows in his upbeat personality and witty charms. Who would have thought that Israeli cuisine would be so tantalising and refreshing to the senses and palette!
ZIGI's Art Wine and Cheese Bar is located at Abercrombie Street in Chippendale, where you enter from Teggs Lane. This laneway adds to the village atmosphere. Either way, you're only a short walk from Central and Redfern train stations. Two hours later, I am still overly full. This kitchen of love has been serving up both their Flights and AUSRAELI menu for quite some time in their restaurant area for two years now. This establishment also runs a popular cooking school, which has been running classes constantly since 2005. Private functions are also available at ZIGI's Art Wine and Cheese Bar.
Where do I start. All of the senses come alive. The dark, quirky and feel good ambience is surrounded in lively art. It is where retro meets modern with a gastronomic and decorative twist. Yet the vibe is relaxing, and the service is so friendly. Not only will Zigi cook for you, he might also come and collect your plates afterwards as well. It all depends on how busy he is.
Now to the good stuff. The food, and of course the wine. The wine list is extensive, and utterly impressive to any wine aficionado. Wine lovers, don't be intimidated by the per bottle prices. Why? Pick the wine you'd like, and if that bottle is unopened - it becomes the wine of the moment. The 'wine of the moment' at ZIGI's Art Wine and Cheese Bar is only $12 a pop. I chose the 2009 Inigo Grenache - Clare Valley SA. Opted for just one glass, and this type of red is stunning. This wine blends in beautifully with the cheese offerings. All of the items I enjoyed are from their AUSRAELI "Food2share" menu.
For the entrée, I was fortunate to have tried the Handmade Labne Cheese ($12) with Zaater - served with pita bread. The Labne is Zigi's signature cheese selection. Speaking of the cheeses, customers are able to pick and choose from a variety of 16 different cheeses. On the cheese menu board, the country of origin of each cheese is clearly displayed - together with the type of cheese: whether it is soft or semi hard. Additionally, these cheeses can also be purchased at ZIGI's Deli.
The Labne is a soft, thick white cheese that goes well with herbs and pita bread. Usually on many antipasto like dishes, the bread normally goes before the condiments. Not right now, the cheese gets devoured first. You'd wouldn't want to waste any. This cheese is just special, and at this point - I was already quite full.
Furthermore, I had to try their signature dish - Falafel Prawns ($18) with Spicy Labne Mousse and Pomegranates. Loved the tiny pomegranate bits and the Labne cheese. Different, and beautifully presented social food. The falafel experience took me right outside of my comfort zone at first, yet in a pleasant fashion. The falafel coating was like the wrapping paper to the hot, juicy and well cooked prawn tucked inside. The coating was crunchy, with some herbs perched inside. Zigi was not wrong by commenting that "we take the traditional, and flip it over its head." What a great, simple food philosophy. Best of all, this particular dish is definitely gluten free. Forget the cutlery, you're meant to use your fingers to enjoy this particular dish.
At this point, I needed some water. My waiter Justine kindly brought me some in a beautifully presented glass with some ice - as well as a dash of lime and mint. Lovely, and so needed. Really pleasant and fast service indeed.
There was one surprise left, before it was time to say goodbye to Zigi, and merci to Justine. Zigi now brings out the Shakshuka ($12) of which comprises of slow cooked eggs in spicy sauce, served with some pita bread. Zigi goes on to explain that some of the edges of the little black pot are quite hot and to only use the lid atop. Done. Felt like I was tucking into a gourmet omelette. Words cannot explain, yet I just loved the sauce and the egg together. Quite an eclectic dish. Overall verdict on this particular dish: A mini, hearty campfire dish in the city.