Wine bar Marion was seven years in the making and marks the fourth shingle Andrew McConnell has hung out on Fitzroy's happening Gertrude Street. (It's also his second new business to pop up this side of town this month, after the opening this week of Meatsmith on Smith Street.) Marion's opening next week, on Friday 23 October, means that, for the first time since next-door restaurant Cutler & Co was redesigned, its diners have a bar to call their own.
But Marion was not designed as a mere holding pen. Taking its name from the lane it backs onto, it was inspired, says McConnell, "by those informal drinking and dining establishments around the world that I really love".
Designed by IF Architects, with finishes of copper, leather and white-washed bricks, the 60-seater (with an additional 25 kerbside seats) will feature familiar faces from the McConnell stable, including manager Andrew Joy and sommelier Liam O'Brien. In the open kitchen will be former Cutler & Co sous-chef Allan Eccles. His opening menu kicks off with anchovy and lemon-marinated zucchini flowers from the wood grill, duck heart yakitori, and braised white beans with salt cod and grilled squid.
Sharing the vast cellar of Cutler & Co means Marion can lay claim to being the best-stocked wine bar in the `hood, with access to a substantial array of back-vintages and rarities. Wines by the glass will run to around 15, but "if a customer requests something really interesting we can always open it and sell it by the glass".
"The DNA of Cutler & Co comes into Marion but it really deformalises the experience," says McConnell. "It's for people who might want to just have a glass of wine before moving on. The wine comes first, the food second."
Marion Wine Bar, 51-53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Vic, (03) 9419 6262