Mark Nelson has thrown out any notion of convention in his very personal wine bar, serving lo-fi wine and snacks, and every now and then veering into a full-on party vibe with disco ball, thumping music and rollicking good times – but it’s just as welcoming and even calm most of the time.
The nuts & bolts
Forget everything you know or expect from an inner-city Melbourne wine bar when you walk in to Baby Snakes in Footscray in the inner west.
The lack of pretention and unadulterated joy for good, quality booze and solid snacks will have you relaxing in the brightly coloured space before you can say, “can I see your wines by the glass?”
Owner-operator Mark Nelson, who co-founded wine bar The Moon in Collingwood and Milton Wine Shop in Malvern, runs the business with his manager and wine buyer, Rhiannon Lahatte.
Lahatte knows her stuff and tends towards wine with a more natural leaning, and she’s constantly seeking out honest reflections of place and variety to share on the ever-changing list.
Seen as a reaction to a more conservative wine bar, Baby Snakes modus operandi is to remind people that drinking is fun and inclusive. They’re not into the swirling, spitting and one upmanship that some wine conversations can bring, but rather Lahatte’s wine list is short, dynamic and changes regularly, encouraging customers to ask, chat and enjoy.
There are simple snacks, perhaps Cuca Anchovies with focaccia and herb butter, or a bowl of smoked almonds and a tight selection of good sandwiches, like the baguette stuffed with Sichuan braised eggplant, pickled cucumber, sesame and vegan mayo, or a classic Cubano with ham, pickles, provolone and jalapeño green sauce.
“Our venue not only caters for the pop-in punter, but is designed for them,” says Nelson. “It’s perfect for people to use as an afternoon, post-work catch-up or an after-work knock-off, or an all-day, all-night fun time. We are always happy to open extra bottles to serve by the glass and chat about the list.”
Moving into the post-COVID world and beyond the summer, the Baby Snakes plan is to have extra wines open most nights and really push the boundaries of what wines are available in Australia right now.