Nina Caplan gives her verdict on Marion restaurant....
Originally published in Decanter magazine in partnership with Hine Cognac
53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia 3065
Tel: +61 (0)3 9419 6262
- Rating: 8/10
- Open daily 5pm-11pm, weekend breakfast 8am-11.30am, lunch Friday-Sunday from 12pm
- Restaurant style: Australian wine bar
- Chef’s menu available for groups of 7 and above
- Wine to try: Ruggabellus’ Sallio
Dinner in a storeroom doesn’t sound much fun, but that all depends on the storeroom. This one is next door to Andrew McConnell’s Cutler & Co, and is also owned by him, which bodes well: even in food-obsessed Melbourne, McConnell stands out for the number and quality of restaurants he opens. Cumulus, Supernormal, the much-missed Golden Fields… he has had few duds, and the good places are great.
Whatever Marion once stored, it clearly wasn’t wine; Cutler & Co’s fantastic list is intact and this bar has access to it, as well as offering a superb, fluctuating selection of its own. There is half a page just on skin-contact whites ($59-$165/£35- £100), and a full page of wines by the glass, from $9-$28 (£5.50-£17). And that doesn’t include those the staff just happen to have open, because the service matches the stripped-back, white-brick walls and industrial furniture: unpretentious, efficient and extremely welcoming.
The kitchen is open, the butter house-made, the menu a collection of letters on the wall, like a cross between a Scrabble rack and an old-fashioned cinema’s Coming Attractions. Information isn’t generous – ‘tortellini’ is a typical entry – but that, like the wine list, is just a good excuse to talk to your waiter.
Crudo ($16/£9.75) turns out to be a generous portion of cured sea bream, with orange, espelette and fennel; ‘prawn roll’ (£10/£6) is a riff on Supernormal’s famous lobster roll: a plump brioche accessorised with lettuce and mayonnaise. Marron (a freshwater crayfish from Western Australia) are grilled over red gum with miso butter and served with Pfeiffer’s Seriously Fine Apera, an Aussie take on Sherry from Rutherglen in northeastern Victoria.
Australian wine no longer fears comparisons, and here I could wander from France to Georgia via Hungary, if I wished. Instead, I drink Australian: a Paringa Estate Pinot Noir from Mornington Peninsula with duck hearts; Ruggabellus’ Sallio, a frankly strange Eden Valley blend that’s mainly Riesling, with mussels and nduja sausage; Domaine Simha’s Simla 2015, an amphora-aged Pinot Noir-Gamay-Cabernet Franc field blend from Derwent Valley in Tasmania that tastes of sour cherries and goes superbly with veal tartare. I finish in Clare Valley, with a glass of Grosset 45, a spirit single-distilled from Riesling by master winemaker Jeffrey Grosset, having travelled halfway round the continent and tried all manner of new and interesting combinations – and all without leaving the storeroom.
Nina Caplan is the 2016 Louis Roederer International Food & Wine Writer of the Year and New Statesman’s wine writer. To read more restaurant reviews subscribe to Decanter magazine
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