What's Neighbourhood Wine all about, Almay?
I started it up with my husband, Simon Denman, and his brother Matt. We feel that if you open a wine bar you want the space to be conducive to sinking in, having a nice drink and being in a really comfortable atmosphere. The entire place really gives you that feeling of warmth and comfort.
Tell us about the wine.
We try to show examples of classic regions and styles doing what they do best at approachable price points. A good example of this is encouraging someone who's after a typical pinot grigio to maybe try a picpoul de pinet from Languedoc because it offers the same textural, fruit-backed quality with a tight, refreshing, citrus acidity, but in most cases at a fraction of the price. The intent is to introduce customers to the notion of straying a little out of their comfort zone.
Which dish do you think is most bound for signature status?
One that we don't take off [the menu] at all any more is a bavette steak dish that I've had on from the start. It's just the cut, pan-seared and served with a compound butter (which could be anything from Café de Paris to roast shallot and red wine, or roast shallot and green peppercorn), and really good hand-cut chips and a salad. I think a lot of people want to go out to eat in the middle of the week and that's all you feel like, a balanced plate like that. I think it's important to do all those three elements well.
A vibrant, subtle Quinta das Camélias Dão Reserva from Portugal.
Neighbourhood Wine, 1 Reid St, Fitzroy North, Melbourne, Vic, (03) 9486 8306.