Boris Portnoy’s All Are Welcome bakery has become a Northcote institution over its relatively short life, now he’s teamed up with winemaker Mitch Sokolin to deliver smart but simple dining with a killer collection of cutting-edge wines.
The nuts & bolts
What happens when a friendly neighbourhood baker with a fine-dining pedigree and an aloof winemaker who hates restaurants open a wine bar in Northcote, the suburb in which they live?
What happens is that the baker, Boris Portnoy, and winemaker, Mitch Sokolin, open the doors on Gray & Gray, the former solicitor’s office of the same name that sat on High Street for 90 years.
The non-descript facade belies the comfortable interior, and the name gives no indication of the eastern European-inspired menu that celebrates Portnoy’s and Sokolin’s shared Russian heritage, and Georgia, where they made wine together.
This approach is quite simply a revelation of food and wine to their many customers.
“There was nowhere to go in Northcote; we had to do it,” they say and while they share their love and knowledge of wines from Eastern Europe, there are no steadfast rules or regional loyalty with the wines they choose.
Their focus lies upon the belief that, “A wine should be made with intention, well executed and be a good ambassador for itself, and its origins. We seem to pull away from established regions and toward areas and producers that respond well to a changing climate.”
The wines are listed on a chalkboard which is updated “on the fly,” while most wines can be made available by the glass, and current glass offerings are denoted with a star on the board.
There are no printed lists, the boys consider them to feel too permanent. All they ask is that you point at the chalkboard or a bottle in the deli fridge and they will, “open it, you drink it.”
Reopening plans include an à-la-carte format in November and there’ll always be a good portion of the bar for walk-in patrons, if restrictions permit.