Name: Thirst Wine Bar and Eatery
Address: 20 West Row, Canberra, Australia, 2601
Ph: 02 6257 0700
Chef/Owners: Jeff Piper, Travis Cutler
Hours: Mon – Tues: 16:30-22:30, Wed – Fri: 12:00-22:30, Sat: 16:30-22:30
A few years ago I ate at Anise, on West Row in Civic. It was a reasonably but unexciting menu, wavering uncertainly between pan-Asian and French food. However, while the food didn’t thrill me, there was one part of the meal that did.
The wine was incredible. A lot of it was unknown, but it matched perfectly. It showed that the people running the place loved the nectar of the vine. They were just missing the mark with the rest of the place.
So they decided to change their style. Dumping the white table clothes and the confused menu, they replaced it with bright blue and red walls, and simple modern Thai food made for sharing. But they kept the wine.
As the name suggests, Thirst Wine Bar and Eatery is a bar first. It just happens to be a bar that serves Thai food. But the wine is what you go for.
Most of us don’t know that much about wine, myself included. But I love to be educated. The wine list at Thirst does exactly that. The list is focused on wines that work well with Thai food, including a large selection of more aromatic white varietals, many of which I have never heard.
Every wine on the list is given a brief blurb, including tasting notes and, usefully, ideas on what to eat with it. But more than that, they explain why the people writing the list chose it. It shows their excitement and passion for the wine that they are serving their customers.
A crisp, dry 09 Prince of Orange Rose was served with a very fresh, sweet corn fritters, creating a great partnership with the sharpness of the dipping sauce. A fatty but spicy Thai sausage with a wonderfully tangy citrusy sauce was matched with some Chardonnay from the Hunter Valley which also had that taste of citrus in it.
One of their more talked about dishes, a green curry with trout dumplings, was complex but subtle, although a touch of Kaffir lime really hit through. Complex but subtle was also the characteristics of the matching Pinot Blanc, a varietal I had never come across before.
I eschewed wine with dessert and kept it fresh with a selection of sorbets. While a coconut one was disappointing and bland, a lime and Kaffir lime leaf delivered real sharpness. The star, however, was the pineapple and ginger. Clean, interesting, and really shining on the palate.
The décor is bright, the service is friendly, and the atmosphere is one of joy and excitement. It is a place focused on shared plates, so by eating alone at the bar at the back of the room I missed a lot of what you’re meant to feel here, but in the end it didn’t matter.
The room was buzzing with energy, with people enjoying themselves in groups. As we move into summer, this bar with food is going to move from strength to strength. It will be the place to eat.
Which is good. Fun, casual sharing restaurants are all the rage around the country. Anything that convinces people to open a few more of them in Canberra would be a huge step forward.
And I love to go forward with a brilliant glass of white.