There’s a bit of a tradition, going back to mediaeval times, of beer being served with meat. Whether it’s a Wiener schnitzel in a Bavarian bierhaus or a mug of warm British ale to wash down a whole suckling pig, beer and meat seem a natural partnership. For this reason Yulli’s, on Surry Hills’ vibrant Crown Street in Sydney, seems to be unique: vegetarian cuisine with Asian and Mediterranean European influences, paired with an extensive craft beer list.
Since opening their doors in August 2008, Yulli’s have been delighting a small but growing army of loyal fans with dishes including salt & pepper tofu and vegetable sambal, together with four beer taps and an impressive selection of bottled beer from breweries all around New South Wales. It’s an iconoclastic menu for sure, but one that seems to have struck a chord with locals.
“The type of food we provide and the quality of the food we provide is interesting and a little bit left of centre,” says Karl Cooney, who owns Yulli’s with his girlfriend Danielle Gleeson.
“The type of people who really get into our food, and the venue that we provide, love the idea of these beers being made by hand and being made with care and made with love.”
To pre-empt any obvious sales pitches, I had had a private dinner at Yulli’s myself prior to our meeting. I mentioned to Cooney how well I found his panang curry went down paired with Stone & Wood’s Pacific Ale. He agrees, and opines that the climate in Sydney is well-suited to similar pairings of Asian and Southern European food with light, bitter beers.
It was while living in Western Australia six years ago, though, that Cooney and girlfriend Danielle fell in love with craft beer. Living a stone’s throw from the International Beer Shop in West Leederville, Cooney says it was a regular thing to take a walk down to the shop, buy a beer and walk back home to cook dinner. When they made the move back to Sydney, the idea of opening a craft beer venue was always on the cards.
“The day we opened we began with craft beer,” Cooney says. “But I am vegetarian, and so is Danielle, and that’s meant that the venue is just elements of our personality, the beer-loving and the vegetarian element.”
Cooney is also hoping to add a third love of his – live music – to the restaurant and is hosting the first live music event at Yulli’s during Sydney Craft Beer Week. Beer, Bands and Bites on Sunday October 23 will be an entirely Sydney-themed afternoon. Cooney is looking to feature local musical talent, four Sydney-brewed tap beers and – a first for the restaurant – an altered menu made entirely from locally-sourced produce.
“It’s actually a bit nerve-wracking,” he says. “It’s just that beer and food taste better when they’re fresher.”
When first approached about getting involved in Sydney Craft Beer Week, Cooney says it was an easy decision. If Beer, Bands and Bites is successful, he is hoping to make band days a regular Sunday afternoon fixture at Yulli’s. He adds that the event is not about putting dollars in the bank, but about keeping the venue fresh and exciting.
“By doing new things and being part of things [like Sydney Craft Beer Week], it keeps me interested, it keeps the staff interested, and that keeps the customers interested.”
“It’s always great to bring new people here who get a surprise that the veggo element is actually quite sustaining rather than being creepy hippy food. It’s also good to keep the ones that we have interested in what we’re doing.”
When asked about the Sydney beer scene in general, Cooney is upbeat.
“I think it’s getting better and better,” he says.
“I feel like the more often I go out, the more often I’m seeing beers that I haven’t had before. There’s some great venues out there.”
Beer, Bands and Bites kicks off at 11:30AM on October 23.
417 Crown St Surry Hills.
Ph: 02 9319 6609