With the vast resource of the Prince Wine Store at your disposal, this is an essential spot for all wine lovers, especially when you couple that with Nicky Riemer’s superb wine-friendly Euro-eclectic cooking.
The nuts & bolts
- Opened 2013
- Function spaces: Various spaces 10–25 guests
The bolthole that is Bellota is somewhat of a sanctuary to wine lovers in a South Melbourne so steeped in pub culture. A modestly sized bistro set in a renovated terrace house in Bank Street, Bellota seats about 40 inside, which more than doubles out the front and at the rear when the sun shines. Still, even in full al fresco mode, the vast resource of a 4,500 strong wine selection is more than a little impressive, with 27 available by the taste, glass and 375ml carafe. Ultra-premium bottlings are dispensed via Coravin, and approximately 100 new wines hit the armoury each week.
“Having the Prince Wine Store next door means we can do some great things with our Coravin wines,” says front of house manager Tiffany Riemer (sister to chef Nicky Riemer, and ex-Cutler & Co). “We’ve done feature flights of some great produces, things like pouring the 2018s from Domain Leflaive – Bourgogne, Puligny-Montrachet, Puligny-Montrachet ‘Clavoillon’. There’s an interesting Radikon flight coming up – 2013 Ribolla Gialla, 2013 Bianco Oslavje, 2003 Merlot. Things like that.”
Okay, this is no ordinary bistro. Indeed, it was created to fill a hole in their local market that Alex Wilcox and Michael McNamara, the owners of the Prince Wine Store, keenly felt. Somewhere for them to go to lunch, for sure, but also a place where their extraordinary selection of wine could be presented properly – appropriate stemware, correct temperature, properly decanted – with equally good food. Of pan-European inspiration, Bellota touches on the feel of some of the great bars and enotecas of Italy, Spain and France, but does it through a modern, yet far from clinical lens.
Nicky Riemer, former owner of Union Dining and alumnus of Stephanie Alexander’s game-changing eponymous restaurant, is on food duty. Riemer takes a European approach to the menu, with a tilt towards Italy and Spain, and the occasional nod to her paternal Austrian heritage. Expect freshly opened oysters, cheese and charcuterie at any time, and substantial offerings during lunch and dinner service, such as capunti with slow-braised goat ragu, smoked eel brandade with zuni pickle, bavette steak with onion jam and a Madeira jus, or quail saltimbocca with jus gras and agro dolce parsley.
There’s a working list at Bellota, but a stroll through the aperture into the wine store opens up a whole world of choice, accompanied by insightful advice, which is available on either side of the wall. And a corkage fee of $15 will get that bottle opened and served the way it should be. There is also a vast selection of aperitifs, spirits and fortifieds, with 140-odd cider and beer options for those still needing more choice.