Gunson Street café and wine bar Dokeo boasts a menu complete with natty, minimal-intervention and small-batch wines and promises to pour without pretentiousness.

Vasily Sekerin struck up a professional relationship with his business partner Daniel Gregg over wine. But it wasn’t vino in a glass; it was among the vines.

The two had met years earlier, but in 2022 Vasily, a winemaker running two-year-old boutique wine label State of Nature, put a call-out on Instagram asking for willing hands to help pick grapes.

Daniel had come along for the pick with his partner and approached Vasily with a pitch.

“He came up to me and was, like, ‘Hey, man, so I have this crazy idea… I’ve got a warehouse in the city. There’s going to be a café and a wine bar and my work office, and it’s going to be great’,” Vasily recalls. “I was running around like a headless chicken and said, ‘This all sounds great. Can we talk about it and finish doing vintage?’”

Daniel has a history studying rural development and sustainable architecture as a University of Adelaide research fellow, and in 2021 he became an independent consultant.

Vasily and Daniel had often spoken often about their shared interest in good coffee, wine and ethical trading practices, and, following the vineyard chat, these discussions bore fruit when the duo opened wine bar and café Dokeo in late 2022.

L—R: Ramon Tampos, Vasily Sekerin and Daniel Gregg

 

The business started in October as a humble hole-in-the-wall establishment, peddling food, wine and coffee from behind a roller door on Gunson Street. Due to its immediate popularity, Vasily and Daniel expanded deeper into the property, taking up the space that fronts Pulteney Street.

They finished fitting out the space three weeks ago, and on the day we visit Sade plays over the PA, floating through the light-filled space while representatives from wine labels offer tastings across a large timber table. Dokeo is now 50 square metres and split into two areas: the old and new.

“It was very DIY, just to throw it in a shed,” Vasily says of pre-reno Dokeo. “Since then, we kind of took things a little bit more seriously out the front.”

While touring through the space, we notice a hardcover copy of the cult culinary text The Noma Guide to Fermentation. Dokeo’s chef Ramon Tampos (formerly of Good Gilbert and Mothervine) is a fan of the soon-to-be-closed (again) Dutch restaurant, and fermentation generally. He’s infusing these cooking techniques into his Filipino-influenced menu.

“A lot of our dishes are Filipino influences, for example salmon Kinalaw. Kinalaw is just the Filipino word for ceviche and borrows a few extra flavours,” Vasily says.

“Once [Ramon] gets back [from holiday] we will be doing a lot of preserves, so if we buy vegetables, we’re never going to throw them out. It’s all going to be either turned into toasties or we will make a sauce or ferment throughout the year.”

On the café front, Dokeo uses Intersection Traders, pouring a couple of types of ethically sourced Ugandan coffee beans. The café food offering has a rotating sandwich and toasty offering, which is designed to use leftovers from the restaurant’s prep.

Dokeo’s wine offering draws on mostly natural, minimal-interventional, and small-batch drops, poured by the bottle and glass.

Squeezin’ the good stuff

 

Dokeo’s wine menu is predominantly South Australia — spanning bubbly Camwell pet-nat, State of Nature Chardonnay and fruity Poppelvej skin contact Viognier — which highlights a range of smaller producers.

“For all these small producers, it’s like a race to the top for us to produce better wine, make more of it and operate at a cheaper price,” he says. “I want to provide a platform and a stepping stone for them to just come.”

Wine-focussed venues can often bring to mind the archetypal over-intellectualising neck-beard-stroker, but Vasily wants Dokeo to be a place where people can comfortably ask questions without fear of being chased out of the venue.

“It’s grape juice at the end of the day,” he says.

“It does lots of wonderful things for our personal lives and for bringing people together, but it’s just grape juice, and I think people should take it just a tiny bit less seriously.”

Owning a restaurant wasn’t Vasily’s first career choice. The Russian-born hospitality upstart initially trained as a pilot at the University of Adelaide from 2015—20, but he changed course when the dream of flying slipped further from view following the COVID-19 pandemic.

After a “mid-life crisis” at age 23, Vasily decided to take the plunge into another passion: food, wine and coffee.

Looking back — now as a business owner “drowning in a to-do list” and working six days a week — he has no regrets.

“I don’t think I would change it for the world,” he says.





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