The 50th Anniversary Issue

Our 50th birthday issue is on sale now. We're celebrating five decades of great food and travel with our biggest issue yet.

Subscribe to Gourmet

Subscribe to Australian Gourmet Traveller before 27th November, 2016 and receive a Villeroy & Boch platter!

Gourmet on your iPad

Subscribe to Gourmet Traveller for your iPad.

Raising the bar: a Melbourne wine bar crawl

  • Marion

  • Marion's mussels with 'nduja crumbs

  • Marion's spanner crab with Avruga

  • Manager Andrew joy of Marion

  • Embla's stracciatella with fermented fennel

  • Embla

  • Embla's roast chicken

  • Bar Liberty

  • Prawns at Bar Liberty

  • French Saloon

Melbourne has a fresh crop of wine bars as notable for their kitchens as their cellars. Join us for a crawl?

Marion Wine Bar
Is it a wine bar or a restaurant? More to the point, does it really matter? Sharp, clean, interesting plates and witty, assured service have made Andrew McConnell's latest Gertrude Street venture a new landmark almost overnight. Sea urchin on a squid-ink cracker with finger lime and tiny discs of pickled cucumber? Check. Ribbons of ox tongue and mortadella sprinkled with horseradish and chive flowers? Check. Mussels, out of their shells and hidden under a dark red pile of fiery 'nduja "crumbs". Heck yes. Better still, Marion's snappy 14-page wine list is complemented by access to the full cellar of neighbouring McConnell flagship eatery Cutler & Co. 
Marion, 51-53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9419 6262; open Tue-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 8am-11pm.

Bar Liberty
Bar Liberty is the lovechild of  Attica  alumni Banjo Harris Plane and Michael Bascetta and Rockwell & Sons
' Casey Wall and Manu Potoi (who also did time at Attica; yes, it's complicated). Start the evening or afternoon with a bottled cocktail or make a start on Harris Plane's 130 bottle-strong wine list. The former GT Sommelier of the Year winner has a love affair with chenin blanc, riesling, rosé and skin-fermented, low-intervention wines, but he's also pulled out all the stops sourcing broadly and deeply into some serious back-vintages. Snackage includes the likes of thin slivers of fried potato topped with puréed mussels, pickled red onion and lovage powder, and a killer GLT, a kosher sandwich of lettuce, tomato and gribenes - crunchy fried chicken skin - on sliced white.
Bar Liberty, 234 Johnston St, Fitzroy, Vic; kitchen open Wed-Sat 5pm-11pm, Sun noon-9pm; bar open until 1am Mon-Sat, 11pm on Sundays.

Embla already feels like it's been around forever and here's hoping it
stays that way. Brought to you by Christian McCabe and Dave Verheul from The Town Mouse and French natural-wine guy Eric Narioo, Embla's smart, comforting food and equally savvy wine list (most of it minimal-intervention stuff) make this a CBD must-do. It doesn't take bookings, so you can anticipate a wait, but a seat at the kitchen bar, watching the chefs roast chicken to order in the custom-built wood-fired oven make it more than worthwhile. Don't miss the whipped 'nduja, either, or the charred broccoli.  
Embla, 122 Russell St, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9654 5923; open Mon-Wed noon-midnight, Thu-Fri noon-1am, Sat 4pm-1am.

Kirk's Wine Bar
Green tiles scrawled with daily specials, a smoky-pink terrazzo floor, small round tables, framed vintage Italian booze posters and a sculptural timber-topped bar. Is this Melbourne's most European wine bar?
Quite possibly. A partnership between Con Christopoulos, Josh Brisbane and Ian Curley of The European, City Wine Shop, Siglo et al, Kirk's is all about comfort. Swing by for European classic hits such as steak tartare, duck and pork terrine and vitello tonnato, plus oysters with horseradish and bottarga. The wine list is a user-friendly mix of renowned local producers - Curly Flat, Mount Mary, Luke Lambert, Craiglee - mixed with a solid showing of Old World labels, such as the 2012 Bernard Defaix Côte de Léchet Chablis.
Kirk's  Wine Bar, cnr Hardware La and Little Bourke St, Melbourne,Vic,(03) 9600 4550; open Mon-Fri 7.30am-11pm, Sat-Sun 9am-11pm.

French Saloon
Upstairs from Kirk's, meanwhile, you'll find French Saloon, an even newer  Christopoulos-Curley-Brisbane venture. The menu, designed by Curley in collaboration with head chef Todd Moses (late of Supernormal), is a solid bistro don't-scare-the-horses affair: there's dry-aged steak, flounder roasted whole and served with shellfish butter, oysters, caviar and a good range of cheese and dessert, including gelati from the group's own Gelateria Primavera. The booze list, as user-friendly as the menu, leans towards the French and includes a strong selection of apéritifs.
French Saloon, level 1, 380-384 Little Bourke St (enter from Hardware La), Melbourne,Vic,(03) 9600 2142; open Mon-Fri 12pm-11pm.

Owned and run by Jess Ho (freshly minted TV celeb, marketing whiz, one-time blogger, and bar reviewer), Smalls inhabits a fashionably spruced former garage next door to St Ali. True to the name, it's compact but it's not cramped. Wine is the main event and the two-page bottle list, aided and abetted by a single page of glass-pours, combines friendly mark-ups with a trend-savvy collection of interesting labels. There's also an excellent short (or small) menu from St Ali chef Andy Gale, who's all over the wine-bar food brief with quality prosciutto and jamón, a black pudding parfait and a fine croque-monsieur.
Smalls,  20 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne, Vic, no phone; open daily 3pm-11pm.


Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.

Latest news
A hotel dedicated to gin is opening in London
Top Drops: October
Sydney’s Baxter Inn makes The World’s 50 Best Bars list
Vaporetto's Italian Stallion
Canberra's new wave of great bars
Top drops: September
Signature Collection

Find out more about the Gourmet Traveller Signature Collection by Robert Gordon Australia, including where to buy it in store and online.

Read More
things to do this autumn

Whether it's foraging for wild mushrooms in a picturesque Victorian forest or watching a film by moonlight in Darwin, we've got you covered with 20 exciting autumn experiences from around Australia.

Read More
Gourmet TV

Check out our YouTube channel for our latest cover recipes, chef cooking demos, interviews and more.

Watch Now

You might also like...

Signature drinks

Thirty of our favourite drinks from Australia's best bars an...

Top drinks this month: July 2015

Our top drinks for the month, including pinot noir, gamay, c...

Top drinks of the month: August 2015

Our top drinks for the month, including mataro, malbec, temp...

Hot 100 2015 - Drinks

The world is getting hotter and we’re not talking about glob...

Mover, shaker

The best thing you can take to a party, according to cocktai...

The Galley Room’s Herbie Hancock

Watermelon. Honey. Lemon. Gin. Just add summer.

Chandelier Bar’s Throgg’s Neck

The Horse’s Neck goes uptown in Adelaide.

1806’s Eros Gin Fizz

Yoghurt drinks are coming at you thick and fast.

Sky Bar’s Havana Pearl

Taking you higher with the flavours of rum, ginger and pine...

Loft’s Pimms and Roses

Everything’s coming up English-country-garden with this gent...

The Den’s 20th Century

An uptown classic from a downstairs favourite.

Romeo Lane’s Fortunato

Bourbon meets the complexity of sweet and dry Sherry in The ...

How to improve your wine-tasting ability

Drinking wine is more than a matter of taste, writes Max All...

Australian malbec on the rise

Malbec is on the rise, with local winemakers producing plush...

get the latest news

Sign up to receive the latest food, travel and dining news direct from Gourmet Traveller headquarters.