Michael Harden: Gourmet Traveller

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“It could easily have been a dog’s breakfast. Three owners of a venerable independent bottle shop (Philip Rich, Michael McNamara, Alex Wilcox of Prince Wine Store) decide to open a wine bar next door to their successful business despite having minimal hospitality experience. They invite the owner-chef of a small Fitzroy wine bar (Brigitte Hafner of Gertrude Street Enoteca) to consult on the food and the owner of a singular neighbourhood bar in Carlton North (Gerald Diffey of Gerald’s Bar) to give them a hand with the décor. They then plonk all these elements together in a starkly modern two-storey concrete box crouching behind an original Victorian terrace façade in South Melbourne and throw open the doors.

That Bellota, the result of all this Frankensteinian patching together of assorted elements, has emerged with only the occasional dropped stitch or loose thread is marvellous in the true sense of that word. The marvel is not so much because all the players involved here have come up with the goods (their track records speak loudly for themselves) but that the whole has so emphatically delivered on the promise of the sum of its parts. Even better, it’s done so in a refreshingly reserved and modest way. Far from feeling like the latest glitzy star in the Melbourne dining firmament, Bellota feels like it’s been around – and could be around – forever.

Much of this appealingly calm and experienced vibe comes from the ease with which the food and the wine sit together. Prince Wine Store has a hefty, somewhat intimidating cellar of 3,500-plus labels riddled with benchmarks just through the glass doors linking Bellota and bottle shop, all available for consumption in the wine bar ($15 corkage on bottles under $80, corkage waived after that) it would be easy for a kitchen to get stage fright. But Hafner (a regular Gourmet Traveller contributor) and Stephanie Britton, her former head chef at Gertrude Street who now fronts the stoves at Bellota, hold their nerve.

Understanding that restraint, simplicity and well-pedigreed ingredients are the best response when faced with a deep lake of good booze, they deliver a menu bursting with great wine-friendly Euro bistro flavours that neither scare nor bore the horses, instead keeping them both interested and willing to hand over $30 for a glass of 2011 Giaconda chardonnay or $18 for a 2010 Domaine Coursodon Saint Joseph.”

Read more here.

The Epicure review

Larissa Dubecki recently gave us a rave review in Epicure. You can read the full review over here.

Bellota Epicure

Bellota’s European heart extends to smoked eel rillettes flecked with dill and topped with a yellow cap of fat, with oiled slices of charry ciabatta and a jammy beetroot pickle. Or gin-infused kingfish, a soft bruised pink, done like gravlax with the same sticky finish, customised with coriander and lime creme fraiche and a pile of avocado and blood orange that makes the fish sing.

Or pasta. Thick spaghetti made in-house, sweet spanner crab, good-quality olive oil, parsley and – very important – a bold hand on the garlic. The minute steak is also a corker thanks to the full-flavoured beefiness of the grass-fed scotch fillet and the unapologetic puck of herby butter melting into it.

“It’s great. Fuss-free. Trick-free. Bellota is a classic case of great produce, presented simply. Remember that? It’s true what they say about fashion. Everything old is new again.”

THE LOW-DOWN

The best bit The fabulous wine selection
The worst bit Getting a table at peak hour
Go-to dish Potato and onion tortilla with culatello, $10

14/20

Bellota in Broadsheet

Broadsheet popped past recently, here’s a little bit of what they had to say and you can read the full article here.

broadsheet bellota

“Set in a classic Victorian building, the Bellota Wine Bar is a stylish extension of the neighbouring Prince Wine Store, which boasts over 3500 bottles that customers no longer have to take home to enjoy. Buy a bottle and slip beneath the archway into the small, intimate space with a distinct European sensibility, courtesy of wine experts Philip Rich, Michael McNamara and Alex Wilcox.

There is an ever-changing selection of wines on offer by the glass, taste and half carafe, which can be enjoyed at the bar, tables or in the light filled courtyard.

The liquor shelves are well stocked and a large marble bar features the fresh daily seafood selection. An assortment of charcuterie and cheeses compliments a simple all-day menu including snacks and antipasti plates”