Coogee Wine Room has appointed Bhatia Dheeraj as its new general manager and wine director, joining its team of sommeliers including Russ Mills (formerly head sommelier, Bennelong) and Matt Oliver (formerly sommelier, Porteno).

Dheeraj comes from a stint at Sydney’s est. restaurant. Under his direction, the two-hatted restaurant received Australia’s Wine List of the Year in 2019. As sommelier of the winning wine list, Dheeraj awarded the 2019 Judy Hirst award.

Dheeraj has extensive experience across a number of respected venues both in Australia and overseas: he was previously head sommelier and buyer for two-hatted Penfolds Magill Estate restaurant in South Australia; chief sommelier and buyer at three Michelin-starred Robuchon au Dôme in Macao;  chief sommelier and buyer at Gaddi’s Restaurant and Restaurant Felix at The Peninsula Hotel in Hong Kong; and head sommelier at Raffles Hotel in Singapore.

A tight menu of Mediterranean-inspired shared plates created by head chef Sandro Di Marino (formerly of A Tavola) complements the venue’s wine list. The collection of dishes includes cheese and charcuterie; Sydney rock oysters; Olasagasti Cantabrian anchovies with chickpea bread and tomato; pork belly sliders; ricotta and spinach gnudi with truffle pecorino, sage and butter; and beef sirloin steak with rocket, parmesan and balsamic.

Co-owners Tom Hardwick and Michelle Morales are behind the move.

“Coogee Wine Room has really cemented its offering over the last year but Tom, Michelle and I believe there’s plenty of opportunity to elevate the venue and make it worth crossing Sydney for,” says Dheeraj. “I love the intimacy of a small wine bar and the idea of people arriving as guests and leaving as friends. I think there is a trend towards wine drinkers wanting a more casual, convivial atmosphere coupled with exceptional service and wines. That’s exactly what Coogee Wine Room offers which is why I’m excited to join the team.”

Hardwick believes the team of sommeliers is integral to the venue’s continued evolution.

“Bhatia is one of the most experienced Sommelier’s in Australia so his knowledge and connections will be invaluable for the growth of Coogee Wine Room,” says Dheeraj.

“We share the same vision and passion for growing the in-venue experience and ideally there will be some exciting opportunities for new venues in the aftermath of Covid. We’ve repositioned our offering over the last few months to optimise the guest experience during this challenging time, and I’m really happy with what we’ve achieved. With Bhatia on board, I believe Coogee Wine Room will continue to evolve on its journey to being one of the most respected wine bars in Sydney.”

Coogee Wine Room is currently working on a series of wine events under the banner CellarDoor@Coogee. The events will see Australian wineries bring their cellar doors to Sydney.

Hentley Farm Wines hosted a cellar-door tasting experience at Coogee Wine Room last month and Shaw & Smith will present one on Thursday, 24 September from 4pm  to 7pm. There are also plans to host an iconic Mornington Peninsular winery in October, with details to be revealed soon.

Photography Steven Woodburn

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