From a single site adjacent to the Princes Theatre, business partners Con Christopoulos and Josh Melbourne have – over the course of a decade or two – acquired the entire Spring Street frontage up to the lane that borders the Imperial Hotel. Starting with the European and Melbourne Supper Club – which saved a whole generation from having to endure deafening music if they wanted a drink after 12pm – the duo then occupied the site that once housed Geoff Lindsay’s long defunct Stella restaurant. Into that narrow site was born the City Wine Shop, which was an early embracer of the enoteca model – a wine shop with a modest in-house corkage fee, and food playing a supporting role.
Oddly, with a few notable exceptions, it took a surprisingly long time for this successful model to catch on more broadly, but catch on it did. The City Wine Shop, though, remains the reference point, the platonic ideal of Melbourne’s casual wine revolution. Indeed, it’s hard to overestimate the importance of the City Wine Shop, with alumni fanning out into making, selling, importing, writing about and judging wine in a variety of interesting and influential ways.
The wine offer runs to some 800 lines, with many on display on the wine wall and in the fridges, though some with heftier price tags slumber in the sliver of cellar that runs adjacent to the vast, sunken communal table that runs the length of the back room. The by-the-glass selection tops out at about 25, with featured bottles set into one of the recessed shelves in the olive-green tiled back bar. Changes are made to both lists in a never-evolving way, typically daily.
Today, the City Wine Shop would be entirely familiar to anyone who walked through the doors fifteen years ago and not since. Everything remains in its place, friendly black-clad staff, hand-chalked specials, and even classic menu items like the schnitzel and tuna niçoise remain unchanged, but not out of habit, simply because they have endured well, just like the timeless interior.
COVID-19 conditions: The City Wine Shop is operating takeaway and delivery options, which can be ordered online or by phone.