Words like ‘institution’ and ‘iconic’ get tossed around a lot, and not always with deep justification. But France-Soir, near the top of the Toorak Road hill in Melbourne’s South Yarra, has earned both of those monikers, and some time ago. It is indeed an iconic institution, and an establishment with a loyal following that few…
Kirk’s Wine Bar
Just as Con Christopoulos was almost single-handedly responsible for reclaiming the Paris end of Melbourne’s city from what looked like terminal decline some decades ago, he too is redrawing the borders west of Elizabeth Street. In territory mired in restaurant touts, with menus pitched mainly to a tourist audience, and otherwise populated by city workers (most of whom would be well on their way home before dinner service began), this was historically a challenge too great for many pioneers. But, if there’s anyone who can identify opportunity, it’s Christopoulos.
On the site of Kirk’s Bazaar Hotel, one of the city’s oldest pubs, Christopoulos has applied his typical eye for detail and craftsmanship in a decidedly compact site, creating a wine bar that is so European in a distinctly Melbourne way, while simultaneously feeling long established and en pointe right now. This sense of belonging is felt right through, from the shoulder-to-shoulder Parisian-style terrace seating to the transporting cocoon of the cellar to the curved timber bar that welcomes you in a warm embrace.
Although an essentially petite venue (40 seats inside and 45 out), Kirk’s Wine Bar still manages to carry just shy of 300 bottlings, spanning the globe and walking down paths both familiar and highly innovative. The by-the-glass offering is fluid, with some premium pours dispensed via Coravin. Working principally with smaller importers of European wines, and often favouring less-familiar regions, Kirk’s Wine Bar also delves deeply into what is making the Australian wine scene so interesting right now, with offerings from Arfion, Owen Latta and Patrick Sullivan, for example.t
Business partner Ian Curley’s mostly French inspired menu has a strong charcuterie/oyster/cheese game, and shifts the carte from breakfast through lunch and dinner, with more substantial offerings, too. Food is served all day, with last orders taken an hour before closing.