The inspiration for Croydon Lane Wine & Tapas Bar in Cronulla is not the typical story of following a passion or a dream. In fact, it was quite the opposite.
After having been in food retail and hospitality for over 20 years, owners Johnny and Cindy Rechichi had vowed never to return. But they hadn’t bargained on the situation they found themselves in. They had a young family and, whenever they wanted to go out for a big night in the city, it meant spending $100 on cabs plus $100 on a baby sitter, even before commencing their night out. This became a costly venture and, after talking it through with their friends, they saw an opportunity to create something that the area was crying out for.
So they decided to bring the city to Cronulla. The couple hooked up with their great friend, Leonard Davis, and together they selected a site that was hidden behind another building with no frontage; they even built a wall to make it more secluded, creating a private laneway venue reminiscent of parts of the city or of Melbourne. In October 2012 the doors opened to a sophisticated, city-style bar right there in the suburbs.
“This is our second venture in the restaurant game,” Johnny said. “The first one taught us a lot about what to do and what not to do.”
They seem to have got this one right. Cronulla locals have taken well to its dim lighting, plush velvet seating and intimate atmosphere, and the place has developed a dedicated following. It’s open from 5pm to midnight, Thursday to Sunday and you may find it wise to make a reservation on a Friday or Saturday night.
Johnny and the bar staff head up Croydon Lane with Head Chef, George Sideris, working his magic in the kitchen. This includes sourcing fresh, local vegetables and meats from the finest vendors in the city, and you can’t get much fresher herbs than those growing in the hanging wall garden in the courtyard of the bar.
The food ranges from hearty dishes like the signature pork belly, slow-cooked beef cheeks and lamb rump, to pan-fried scallops, trout and other seafood specialties and Mediterranean favourites that benefit from George and Johnny’s backgrounds. The home-made ice cream gets plenty of favourable mentions too.
The food menu is accompanied by a good wine list, a selection of cocktails and an opportunity to try a Wine Flight, which is a tasting of five different wines based on a theme – you certainly don’t find that everywhere.
Instead of going to the city so often, Johnny and Cindy sound delighted that they have been able to bring part of the city to Cronulla. Johnny said, “Our Sydney is a place where you can relax and get away from the grind of work and other issues going on in your life. It’s a place where you gather with friends and enjoy good food, good wine and good company.”