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Marion Wine Bar, Melbourne

Our restaurant critics' picks of the latest and best eats around the country right now: Marion Wine Bar, Melbourne.

Sea urchin sits on a squid-ink cracker with finger lime and tiny discs of pickled cucumber. Ribbons of ox tongue and mortadella are sprinkled with shaved horseradish and a handful of purple chive flowers. Mussels, out of their shells, are hidden under a dark red pile of fiery 'nduja "crumbs". Andrew McConnell's latest venture, a wine bar called Marion, nails the bar-food brief confidently and emphatically.

Head chef Allan Eccles produces the kind of sharp, interesting and clean-flavoured dishes - a casarecce with zucchini flowers, grilled rock flathead, a porterhouse (from McConnell's new butcher shop, Meatsmith), house-smoked duck leg - that seem bound to make Marion an instant landmark.

The feel of the room is sophisticated but relaxed, blending concrete floors and whitewashed bricks from the building's light-industrial past with luxurious detailing - copper, marble, a very comfortable leather banquette - and a backdrop of floor-to-ceiling black metal wine racks.

Marion has its own 14-page wine list of buff-friendly labels that run the gamut from classic small-producer Chablis to funky, crunchy orange wines, but also has access to the cellar at next-door neighbour Cutler & Co. The length of the full list can be a little daunting, but with the calm Andrew Joy (formerly of Cumulus Up) directing the service charge, it all becomes very easy very quickly.

It's early days but Marion already feels like a Melbourne classic.

Marion Wine Bar, 51-53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9419 6262. Open Tue-Fri 5pm-11pm, Sat-Sun 8am-11pm.

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