Up a flight of stairs above long-term wood-fired pizza player Woodstock in Fitzroy North, Neighbourhood Wine occupies a site of both individual charm and somewhat dubious history. Before brothers Simon and Matt Denman, and chef Almay Jordaan took possession of the first-floor title that stretches over two shopfronts, it had remained idle for a quarter…
Gerald’s Bar slipped into its second decade a few years back, but it feels like it’s been with us for much longer than that. Carlton’s Rathdowne Street has never been much of a late-night haunt, with the plane-tree-lined streets typically surrendering quietly into the dark. But that was before Gerald Diffey and Mario Di Ienno arrived, not that they did so disruptively. Indeed, the main noise came from Diffey’s vast collection of vinyl – jazz, funk, soul, ska, blues – played properly, through a valve amplifier. No, it was not so much noise, but a sense of quiet energy that they brought with them, two not so weary veterans with nothing to prove, doing exactly what they wanted to do, and often well into the night.
Fast forward, and not much has changed – although an Iberian Geralds, in San Sebastian, was added to the roster in 2014. They’re a bit more receptive to making cocktails. Well, a lot more. The walls are more heavily adorned with ornaments and collectables, and the shelves boast more drained prime bottles, spilt into glasses in good time past. But the vinyl, the eclectic selection of wines, the 1960s David Bailey portrait of Michael Caine that watches over all, and, most importantly, the attitude, has remained the same.
The by-the-glass policy has been similarly enduring, with the early arrivals dictating the open bottles, which can be switched around once exhausted, with ten typically open at any one time. The main list sits at a tick under 200, with and even international and domestic split, though Victorian wine makes up over two-thirds of the local listings. The soft drinks, cordials and bitters are all house made, and there’s a tight but broad-ranging beer offering, with both classic and original cocktails available. Food stretches from charcuterie, cheese and other typical wine bar snacks to changing small and large plates and deserts, with a ‘feed me’ degustation option for those in for the longer haul.