An intimate new wine bar in Daylesford, where the focus is shared plates of locally grown ingredients from a menu that changes weekly, built for the purpose of enjoying wines – with a unique wine list that celebrates classic Victorian wine producers alongside cult international wine regions.
The nuts & bolts
- Opened 2022
- Focus on local, seasonal produce
- 500 bottle wine list
- Intimate venue
- Informal and unstructured dining approach, built around shared dishes and wine enjoyment
- Wine list features museum releases of classic wines.
The regular’s tip
Monday dinners. An ever changing prix fixe menu is served on Monday nights at $65/head.
Named after the Italian ritual of a mid-afternoon snack with wine, Bar Merenda captures a sense of the bucolic life enjoyed in picturesque Daylesford.
It’s the sum of strong creative inputs. It combines Clare O’Flynn’s skills as a designer and illustrator whith her husband Andy Ainsworth’s experience with managing wine-centric venues. They also grow vegetables on their plot at Stone Hills Farm and source produce for the bar from the bountiful Daylesford region in central Victoria.
“We wanted to create a wine bar with a sense of place,” says Clare. “Everything on the plate is derived from the beautiful local produce available from small farmers here in central Victoria, and on the wine front, we have a large selection of our favourite central Victorian grape growers and winemakers, alongside their counterparts in the old world. It’s a wine bar that identifies with place and time, just like our favourite wines.”
This amounts to about 500 bottles, with a large representation of historical Victorian wines, and stretching abroad to embrace Jura whites and reds from the Rhone and Piedmont – “which just happen to be our favourites,” says Andy. “We are first and foremost interested in wines that speak of place, that have something to say about where and when they were grown, and have a sense of vitality and energy. These wines make clear sense in the company of vibrant food derived from fresh, local, responsibly-grown ingredients that we champion at our bar.”
It’s small, with only 12 bar seats, 16 seats at tables and 8 outside on the terrace – but Andy says there’s always space for walk-ins at Merenda. “We like to deliver whatever people want, whether it’s a quick glass of wine and chunk of focaccia, or a spontaneous wine dinner that traverses back-vintages of central Victorian classics, chased with a selection of amari.”
A compact menu with up to 10 dishes is written weekly and driven by what small local farmers have available. Clare says the food is best enjoyed as a number of plates to share for the table, adding that a great tip for regulars is the frequently changing prix fixe menu served on Monday nights at $65 a head. For those who prefer to be more organised, bookings are also an option, but not essential.
Bar Merenda visitors can sit at a high timber bar or at mismatched tables and chairs dotted around the space that was previously a live music venue. Vintage crockery and cabinets full of wine bottles add to the room’s simple charm, as do Cubist prints and old wine posters.
“It’s all rather informal and unstructured, as we prefer things to be,” says Clare.