Dogs Bar, Melbourne

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

The Dogs Bar has not been particularly well treated in recent times - different owners, different names, diluted appeal. But, thanks to the vision of its original owner, the late Donlevy Fitzpatrick, who imbued the game-changing wine bar with good bones back in 1989, it has maintained vestiges of its institution status, even if it's been mainly via nostalgia of late. Now a new team - Erez Gordon and chef Paul Cooper, the team behind Sydney's Bishop Sessa - have taken over its management and plan to bring it back to its roots. It's a work in progress, with renovation plans mainly about a lick of fresh paint and highlighting some of the Dogs' best features, such as the Mirka Mora mural framing the open kitchen. Fresh paint will be welcome; the room feels neglected at present but on the menu front, things are already looking up. Cooper has assembled a wine-friendly list that includes house-made charcuterie, such as the spicy, salty duck bresaola, and daily-changing fresh pasta (if the pan-fried gnocchi tossed with sticky rich braised beef cheek is available, leap all over it). A kingfish ceviche served with grapefruit segments and cucumber gets the acid balance right, while hearty stuff like pinot-glazed whole roast duck is custom-made for tucking into in front of the open fire on chilly nights. Add a brief but interesting all-Australian wine list - another work in progress - and some sharp cocktails and it's easy to see Dogs Bar regaining its rightful place in the St Kilda dining pack.

Dogs Bar, 54 Acland St, St Kilda, Vic, (03) 9593 9535. Open Mon-Thu 4pm-midnight, Fri-Sun noon-1am.

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