Nicky Riemer, Head Chef


Top chefs Danielle Rensonnet and Nicky Riemer switch stoves

  • Roslyn Grundy – GoodFood



Two of Melbourne’s best female chefs are on the move.

After five years at South Melbourne wine bar Bellota, Danielle Rensonnet is leaving to take charge of the cafe at Paul Wilson’s multi-pronged Prahran market project, Wilson & Market. And stepping into her clogs will be Nicky Riemer, who closed her Richmond restaurant Union Dining in February.

Rensonnet says that after years of working nights, the daytime-only gig will be a complete lifestyle change. She’ll get in training for the breakfast shift by setting an early alarm during a brief break between jobs.

Wilson says Rensonnet (whose CV also lists the now-closed St Jude’s Cellars and Andrew McConnell’s Three One Two) will bring substance and maturity to the kitchen when she joins in early May to craft a mostly-vegetarian menu with a farm-to-table outlook.

Riemer, who joins Bellota after Easter, is excited about returning to work after almost two months’ break. “I’ve started to get itchy kitchen feet.”

She says the brief from owners Michael McNamara and Alex Wilcox was simple: “We love your food. Do what you want.”

Wine-friendly European dishes are Riemer’s stock in trade. She previously headed the kitchens at the Melbourne Wine Room and Langton’s Restaurant & Wine Bar before opening Union Dining with front-of-house pro Adam Cash, now at Source Dining in Kyneton.

Wilson & Market’s cafe is expected to open on April 18, and the 120-seat brasserie and wine bar by mid May. Phase one, takeaway outlet Mr Wilson’s Tuckshop, opened last month.


2015 MFWF Restaurant Express

Bellota kicks off the #MWFW with Restaurant Express $40 lunch.
2 courses including –
Squid, sobrasada, salsa verde, fennel, black garlic
Grilled lamb cutlets, escalivada, basil
matched with a glass of Tenuta Il Palagio Chianti.
Bookings only, Tuesday – Friday. +61 3 9078 8381

John Lethlean: The Australian

Octopus photo

Bellota, Melbourne, becomes a hybrid experience under Danielle Rensonnet



CURTAINS of cured legs. Walls of dried/smoked sausages, all shapes and sizes. Streets running with blood, soon to be turned to that most elegant of black puddings, morcilla…

Wandering Spain, you really do start to wonder if there are any live pigs left out there at all. The curing and consumption of their meat is nothing short of a national obsession. And the pinnacle, jamón ibérico de bellota, is from pigs that roam oak forests and eat only acorns during their final, wild romp before heading you know where.

Now, Acorn wouldn’t be a bad name for a restaurant. Cute-ish; laden with proverbial meaning. But its Spanish translation, Bellota, is a whole lot sexier. And this place is as close to an Old World eating and drinking experience – calling it a restaurant seems too limiting – as you’ll find in the New World.

Bellota, a small place in South Melbourne where I left a little of my heart the other night, is the kind of hybrid experience you could only find outside Europe. It’s really all about the sensibility rather than a specific culture, and wine (naturally) plays a huge part. Because Bellota is an extension of a very good wine shop next door, and indeed is run by the same enthusiasts. And from the decor to the attitude, they’ve done a convincing, cliché-free job of expressing the sum of their European wine experience in a local place to enjoy the stuff with quality food, regardless of the portion.

At Bellota they want you to buy a glass of wine first, and then, maybe, consider a snack, or perhaps the menu proper. But only after you’ve talked wine with someone knowledgeable, not up themselves at all, and tried something new (taste, glass or demi-carafe). I’d like to live next door.

Now here’s the controversial bit: serious wine people know a lot more about quality food than most restaurateurs. They travel more, eat better, often have more money to do so. Bellota reflects that knowledge base particularly well.

The food is excellent, from the baguette with butter in a metal basket (did you read that Perth, Brisbane?) to the French fries that are exactly what they’re supposed to be, and everything in between. Bistro food at its most simple, unshackled best.

There’s a serious collection of sliced-to-order salumi, of course, plus other charcuterie. Bresaola is served with pickled mild green chilli, French beans and yellow pepper in olive oil, smart on a board with Bellota-branded paper.

Smoked octopus comes as a kind of “salad” with salsa verde, diced confit tomato, sorrel and black garlic mayo with shredded sorrel. All lively.

You want a main as an entree? Easy. Orzo is jumbled with spanner crab and baby zucchini with their flowers, with a little fresh tomato; spaghettini is tossed with fresh tomato, fennel, dill and smoked mussels. Sharp flavour edges are honed, making this great wine food.

Grilled spatchcock with light chicken jus and Jerusalem artichoke is in the same camp, carefully executed; ditto for a piece of Wagyu bavette, quickly grilled, rested and served with anchovy/thyme butter, fries and a leaf/radish salad. Simple as hell, but thought through and sold at sensible prices.

The arrival of chef Danielle Rensonnet earlier this year has amped the food here. She proves it with a simple, but oh-so-perfect crème a la Cassonade – like a crème brûlée but with a crumbled praline topping – augmented with dense, ruby-red rhubarb. $12.

We drank wines by the glass all night. Great staff who never up-sold on any brief. Golly, this is a fine team. And ultimately, the name Bellota is a kind of by-word for “quality”. It works at every level.


Address: 181 Bank St, South Melbourne

Phone: (03) 9078 8381


Hours: Lunch, dinner, Tue-Sat

Typical prices: Antipasti $12; mains $30; desserts $12

Summary: Pig out

Like this? Try… 10 William St, Sydney; Proof, Adelaide

Stars: 4 out of 5

The Age Good Food Guide 2015 Awards winner



For a list of fewer than 100 bottles, perfectly pitched to the restaurant’s style.  An inspired addition to Prince Wine Store, one of Melbourne’s leading wine retailers, Bellota has become the go-to place for wine discovery and adventure. Coming in at just under 60 wines, with no bottle over $165, the largely international wine list punches well above its weight due largely to the 22 wines poured by the taste (90ml), glass (150ml) or carafe (500ml), opening up all kinds of vinous adventures.