When it comes to the wine bar, few cities do it better than Melbourne. From inner city laneways to suburban shopping strips, we’ve got every cosy corner covered. Just add food.
City Wine Shop
Image credit: Tessa Kelly.
Owner Con Christopoulos specialises in creating unique, pitch-perfect settings for his empire of venues, and City Wine Shop is the exemplar of the Italian wine bar-slash-food pit stop. With pale green tiles, shelves of covetable vino (to enjoy in-house for a corkage fee, or at home) and a smashable by-the-glass selection, it’s a paean to all the good things in life.
159 Spring Street
The saloon-like Russell Street digs of Carlton’s Town Mouse crew has been kicking goals since it opened a smidge over a year ago. From a natural-leaning wine selection that will convert even die-hard cynics, to a wood oven and grill making dishes of rare beauty Embla puts together a killer package.
122 Russell Street
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A golden oldie at 22 years of age, Punch Lane delivers on booze (the list is as deep and wide as Port Phillip Bay) and food (the one-page menu makes everything count, from oysters to ceviche and a free range chicken roasted with white truffle bread sauce). But above all, this old timer has oodles of Euro-leaning style.
43 Little Bourke Street
A late addition to his oversubscribed all-day Flinders Lane mothership Cumulus Inc, Andrew McConnell’s Cumulus Up mightn’t have the most imaginative name in the game but it’s certainly its own beast. Think a short but adventurous wine program by the glass, covering natural and conventional bases, and typically adventurous yet delicious McConnell food.
Level 1, 45 Flinders Lane
Irreverence rules the day at this gently anarchic Fitzroy bar where whiskey is dispensed from a model Thunderbird and the wine program takes the road less travelled. Bar Liberty will convert the deepest skeptic to its minimal-intervention ways, and the food – including the addictive mussel dip dusted in lovage powder on potato crisps – is also a headline act.
234 Johnston Street, Fitzroy
So Italian it hurts, this local Northcote favourite is all exposed red bricks and a comfortable nonna (or should that be nonno?) vibe. Housed in the former fruit shop run by owner and sommelier David Carlei’s equally wine-obsessed great-grandfather, the front bar is lined with Oz, Italian and globetrotting bottles with a biodynamic bent. Grab one to go – but better still, order a pasta and drink in-house.
83 High Street, Northcote
Heartattack and Vine
Image credit: Lisa Cohen.
It’s named after the Tom Waits album, just in case you’re wondering. Part of the revival bringing sexy back to Melbourne’s Little Italy on Lygon Street, H&V bases its charms on the morning-to-late café/bars anchoring Italian life. The wine list leans the same, with a subset in vermouth, while food is based around cicchetti, the Venetian answer to tapas; think meatballs, oysters and chicken liver parfait.
329 Lygon Street, Carlton
Kirk’s Wine Bar
Another Christopoulos production, this one tucked into a Parisian corner on recently revitalised Little Bourke Street. It’s a confident joint that feels older than its relatively young years, thanks to a deliberate patina of age. The vino program is Euro-leaning – the bistro-style menu, too. There are no bookings, naturellement, so be prepared to fight the crowds.
Corner Hardware Lane and Little Bourke Street
The Carlton Wine Room
This light and bright space is home to a 100-bottle-strong wine list that changes weekly in line with the seasons (more reds for winter, more whites for summer). For the best of the best, go with the off-menu daily "Staff Choice" bottle, paired with a plate of zingy fresh oysters, a few morsels of grilled octopus or, if you're hungry, half a roast chicken.
172-174 Faraday Street, Carlton
Another Andrew McConnel special, Marion is the spot for pre-drinks before dinner at Cutler & Co (next door.) There's an extensive wine list, journeying from Gippsland sparkling to full-bodied reds from Spain, plus beers, ciders and a select edit of cocktails. Love what you sipped? The Deadman's Dozen (named for the nearby street) is a monthly selection of wines available to order.
53 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
This article was originally published in 2017 and has been updated.