Smalls, Melbourne

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

South Melbourne's increasingly sprightly reputation as a culinary destination has been further defibrillated with the arrival of new wine bar, Smalls. Owned and run by Jess Ho (freshly minted TV celeb, marketing whiz, one-time blogger, and bar reviewer), it inhabits a fashionably spruced former garage next door to St Ali (with which it shares toilets). The fit-out brings together parquetry flooring, ceramic light shades, white-painted brickwork, a sizeable skylight and three different types of marble, including white tabletops and a lovely biscuit-coloured bar. True to the name, Smalls is compact but it's not cramped, the clever placing of booths, tables and dim lighting delineating and expanding the space. Wine is the main event here 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 that embraces a wide array of winemaking styles and includes central Victorian vermouth, sake from Osaka, South African chenin blanc, Napa Valley cab sav, Madeira and rosé from the Jura. 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 served with freshly shaved black truffle. Good oysters - including an exemplary take on Kilpatrick - a plate of crackling and chicken skin, soy-pickled mushrooms and roast quail all add up to a sophisticated, well-handled crowd-pleaser.

Smalls, 20 Yarra Pl, South Melbourne, Vic. No phone. Open daily 3pm-11pm.

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