MELBOURNE | Located above the original Woodstock pizza restaurant, Neighbourhood Wine Fitzroy North is a Modern Australian restaurant that first opened back in early 2013. We’ve visited Neighbourhood Wine several times since it’s opened and in that time it’s become somewhat of a local favourite. When Jeff’s birthday rolled around this year and we were looking for a place to book a group dinner, the choice was easy.
Neighbourhood Wine replaced what was, according to urban myth, an illicit gambling hall. Whether myth or not Neighbourhood Wine definitely has the feel of a cozy and private place, secluded from the outside world. The prevalence of wood, the presence of a fireplace and also a snooker table all contribute to creating an environment where one would happily settle in for anything from a few evening drinks to an extended dinner.
The venue consists of a main dining area with well-spaced tables and simple fittings that creates a casual and comfortable vibe. Stuffy fine dining this is not. There are also two large side areas that can be reserved for large groups.
The drinks list, as one would expect, is predominantly focussed on wine, the selection of which was as impressive as we had expected, consisting of both Australian and international tipples across the major styles as well as a reasonable selection of local craft beers. To complement the wine list the staff were very knowledgeable and were extremely helpful in describing the wines on the list and making good suggestions regarding wines that would suit each of our tastes.
The food menu rotates seasonally and focuses on relatively simple, modern food. Ala carte options are available, and a 4 course chef’s choice menu plus a glass of wine is available on weekends for $45.00. For large groups, such as the one that we had on this occasion, a chef’s choice menu also applies for $65 a head (below we quote the prices as they appear on the menu if ordered individually).
Cured Meat Selection ($10.00/30g Portion)
To whet our appetites the staff first brought out a cured meat plate which consisted of felino, csabai and hot sopressa. This was a nice, light way to start the meal and the prevalence of local providers of great produce was clearly evident in the quality of the meats which had excellent flavour and were cut to just the right thickness to ensure that we were not filled up before the mains.
Salad of Apple, Fennel & Pomegranate With Mint & Hazelnut Dressing ($16.00)
Accompanying the cured meats was a salad of apple, fennel and pomegranate – this classic combination of flavours was refreshing and helped to clear the palate.
Pan-roasted Bass Groper With Cannelini Beans, Beet Leaves & Fried Bread ($30.00)
The first of the shared main dishes was a pan fried groper, served with cannelini beans and fried bread (no, that is not chorizo in the photo below!). Consistent with the entrees, the fish was cooked well with the flesh still firm without being dry and a nice level of char on the outside. The beans had good flavour and helped to fill out the dish. The only criticism we would make was that the mains took quite a while to come out (it had been an hour since the start of our meal) – we suspect that this was due to the size of our group but given that we had booked in advance and accepted that we would be receiving the set menu we had expected more timely service.
Grass-fed Cape Grim Bavette Steak (250g), Fat Chips & Salad, Shallot & Red Wine Butter ($32.00)
The next course that came out was the bavette steak, which is a staple on the Neighbourhood Wine menu. This was the highlight of the meal for us – the beef was cooked perfectly medium rare, the meat was tender and flavoursome, and it was sliced in a way that made sharing easy. Accompanying the steak were fat chips which were nice and crispy while remaining relatively light rather than being overly oily.
Orange, Dark Chocolate & Almond Cake With Chocolate Ice Cream ($12.00)
For dessert we started with an dark chocolate and almond cake which was served with chocolate ice cream. The cake was on the dry side but this was more than compensated for by the orange which was served on the side and also the ice cream which was smooth and tasted great.
Poached Pear Crumble With Apple & Chestnut Liqueur Ice Cream ($12.00)
The second dessert was a poached pear crumble and was our pick of the 2 desserts. The crumble was served warm which was perfect on a cold winter’s night. The topping was noticeably ‘crumbly’ and had not been made soggy by the fruit underneath and the ice cream was again smooth and had flavours which combined well with the rest of the dish. Jeff is not a dessert person but he said that he would definitely order this again.
After dinner we wandered around the venue and noticed the extensive vinyl and spirits collection. We think that this would be a great place to head to after work to chill out with friends over a few drinks.
Neighbourhood Wine once again delivered an excellent meal with friendly, helpful service on our most recent visit. The only criticism that we would make was that for a large group the service was quite slow – it took almost three hours for our meal service to be completed and given that an advance booking was made and a set menu was delivered we expected dinner to be served more expediently. This said on our previous visits with smaller groups the service has been excellent so we do not think that this is a systemic issue and would highly recommend Neighbourhood wine as a place for lunch or dinner with a small group, or even just a few glasses of wine of an evening. We will certainly be back soon.
1 Reid Street
Mon – Sun: 12:00pm to 12:00am