Max Phillips is passionate about natural wines and has ammassed an impressive selection from small winemakers across Australia. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Max Phillips is passionate about natural wines and has ammassed an impressive selection from small winemakers across Australia. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Coffs Harbour’s newest bar takes stock of new trends

COFFS Harbour’s newest bar may not have a New Zealand sauvignon blanc, but that’s just how Max Phillips wants it.

Slo. Vino And has been open for just four weeks and the small bar and bottle shop is already gaining a reputation for its fantastic selection of natural wines, boutique beers and breezy vibe.

“Slo stands for small batch, low intervention and organic. Anything that fits within that ethos is something we want to provide,” Mr Phillips said.

While Mr Phillips may be leveraging his experience in the family business – his parents are the publicans of the neighbouring Coffs Hotel – it is very much he and partner Taylah Raymond’s enterprise.

Max Phillips outside Slo. Vino &, Coffs Harbour’s newest bar and boutique bottle shop, next to the Coffs Hotel on the corner of 135 West High St. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Max Phillips outside Slo. Vino &, Coffs Harbour’s newest bar and boutique bottle shop, next to the Coffs Hotel on the corner of 135 West High St. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Having begun a love affair with natural wines while working in Singapore, Mr Phillips describes having an itch that needed to be scratched ever since. He saw its potential and wanted to share it back home.

“I was hooked, the flavour (of natural wines) was like nothing I had ever tasted,” he said.

When coronavirus forced a long lay-off, the pair were presented with an opportunity to think long and hard about those small bar dreams.

Needless to say, he never went back to the family bottle shop. He opened his own.

The result is a stylish yet laid-back venue, which Mr Phillips credits as being all the work of Ms Raymond.

While launching a bar in the middle of a pandemic may at first seem a little counterintuitive, Slo. Vino And has been warmly received and comes at a time when people have become more engaged with supply chains.

Some of the many craft beers on tap at Slo. Vino And. Photo: Tim Jarrett
Some of the many craft beers on tap at Slo. Vino And. Photo: Tim Jarrett

Recognising there’s a certain conservatism in the Coffs Harbour market, reflected in the similarities in venues across the region, Mr Phillips is determined not only to be part of a change – but to drive it.

And as passionate about natural wines as he is, Mr Phillips loves the “tiny producers” whose size and philosophy reflected theirs.

“People care about what they put in their bodies and want to know more about what they are buying and they are happy to spend a little bit more if it is a premium product,” he said.

“Each one of the winemakers is a small business like ourselves. I don’t know if they want to go big, they just enjoy what they are doing and want to create a lifestyle and live comfortably in what they are doing.”