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Christian McCabe's new wine bar

Christian McCabe

Christian McCabe

Co-owner of Carlton's Town Mouse and natural-wine fan Christian McCabe is opening a "wine bar with food" on Russell Street in Melbourne's CBD. His partners in the venture, on the site that housed Pizza Napoli for many years, are The Town Mouse chef Dave Verheul and French natural-wine guru Eric Narioo.

Narioo is credited as one of the first people to bring attention to natural wine through his company Les Caves de Pyréne, which was first started in the late 1980s. His focus on sustainably, organically or biodynamically produced wine by artisan producers (he's never dealt in mass-produced wine or wine that's stocked in supermarkets) started with the wine he was distributing to restaurants. He then opened a series of influential wine bars with food in England, Terroirs, Brawn, The Green Man & French Horn and Soif among them.

McCabe, whose wine list at his Carlton restaurant is almost exclusively weighted towards "the style of wine I prefer, from vigneron producers rather than big companies", is excited to be teaming up with Narioo.

"At The Town Mouse, I've been in the role of boss in many ways, so to be going into partnership with someone like Eric is like being mentored," he says.

The as-yet unnamed wine bar (though there will be "no animals or children's books in the name") will have a more casual offering at street level. The upstairs, which will open a couple of months later, will be "more high end".

Dave Verheul will be responsible for the food, which will be "simpler in terms of execution" according to McCabe.

McCabe and Narioo get access to the site in April and are planning a massive overhaul of the interiors. The downstairs wine bar is expected to be up, running and sloshing the natural good stuff (local and imported) by the time spring hits.

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