Occupying what many Sydney-siders still refer to as the old “Tabou” site at the southern end of Crown St in Surry Hills, Bishop Sessa is a stylish modern European bistro and wine bar.
Pop in for a glass of wine (we have more than 30 on offer by the glass) and a snack of cheese and charcuterie or settle in for a meal, choosing from a selection of share plates or a 5-course degustation with matching wines.
“Bishop Sessa makes all the right moves”
Good Food Guide, SMH
“The good news is Gordon knows food”– John Lethlean, The Australian
Bishop Sessa owner Erez Gordon began working in hospitality in Melbourne while studying drama and literature at Deakin University but it did not take long for food, wine and restaurants to become his primary interest and second nature.
Whilst in London Gordon worked at Terence Conran’s Soho juggernaut Mezzo as well as Antony Worrell Thomson’s Simpsons chain. Travels through France, Spain and Italy turned his wine infatuation into unadulterated obsession before returning to Australia in 1996.
From 1996 to 2002 he worked as Maitre d’Hotel for Melbourne’s Jacques Reymond Restaurant, collecting the 2002 The Age Good Food Guide Service Excellence Award along the way and proudly playing his part in Jacques Reymond Restaurant consistently collecting 3 Hats from the same guide each year.
In mid 2002 Gordon, as General Manager, was part of the team to take over and revamp The Botanical Hotel. Reopening the iconic venue in April 2003 The Botanical received the Restaurant of the Year award that same year and the Good Food Guide’s wine list award the following year as well as 2 hats from 2003 to 2007.
Gordon moved to Sydney in 2011, taking over Balmain’s Bistro Bruno and opening Bishop Sessa in 2012.
Bishop Sessa – the man, the myth*
Bishop Sessa was a 15th century small town church figure in Italy with a love of food, wine and games in equal measures.
Bishop Sessa’s infatuation with eating and drinking was matched only by his reverence for games, in particular chess and his dedication to the spiritual and physical welfare of his congregation.
For decades the Bishop kept his churchgoers safe from the blood-feud politics of medieval Italy with a combination of political strategy, bartering and religious threats.
When not deeply entrenched in a religious tract Sessa would keep his mind and wit sharp by playing highly strategic games such as chess.
Legend has it Bishop Sessa (BS) once fasted for a week before playing a game of chess with an acolyte. During the fast BS personally carved the game pieces from a local hard cheese. Neither man was permitted to eat until his gamesmanship had provided him with a hard won piece. BS insisted the denial and subsequent game sharpened his mind while strengthening his faith and resolve through adversity and self-denial. There is no record of who won but by all accounts the Bishop was a master.
An avid fan of the local grapes BS made the sacramental wine for his small congregation plus a little extra for his own dinner table from vines grown on a small dusty slope behind the chapel. He could often be found tending his vineyard with an exactitude bordering on the spiritual and in the heavy-handed game of small town 15th century politics his adherence to winemaking principles was offered as an example of his lack of faith and application to the word of god. Nevertheless he never allowed his detractors to interfere with what he referred to in his diaries as “the Lord’s other work”.
Bishop Sessa’s generosity was also legendary. Gifts of fresh meat, fruit and vegetables given to him by grateful churchgoers often found their way into the houses of the poor with the only indication of their provenance being a small chess-board bishop carved from Parmesan left along with the other foodstuffs.
BS died in curious circumstances. He was last seen by passing townsfolk on a clear winter’s day pruning the vines in the chapel vineyard. He failed to return for the evening meal and although his congregation searched for days neither he nor his body was ever found. This has encouraged many to suggest this is proof of his deserved sainthood but to date The Vatican has not seen fit to recommend him for beatification.
*All names and facts in this account have been changed to protect the guilty.
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