Maeve Wine Bar is housed in somewhat of an enviable site, with it backing onto Brisbane’s thriving Fish Lane precinct, but perhaps more significant is the grandeur of the heritage building whose first floor it occupies. Built in 1929 for the Queensland National Bank, the nods to classical architecture have been given new life in this most European wine bar and restaurant.
Maeve’s doorway is around the corner from the main entrance behind substantial copper doors, thick with verdigris. Ascending via a staircase painted a deep burgundy hue, with the venue’s name emblazoned on the risers, takes you into the dining space, with the kitchen arranged down the common wall. An iteration of generous sash windows opens the green flush of treetops to patrons, extending round the elegant curve of the building that describes an arc across Grey Street to Melbourne street. The interior here is anchored in the classical roots of the building, with chalky white walls, polished timber, fluted feature walls and its fair share of brass and frosted glass, no doubt contributing to the pervasive European aura.
Maris Cook and Jesse Stevens, two of the driving forces behind Maeve, also own Hello Please, which is somewhat of a Fish Lane icon. For Maeve, the pair teamed up with Eleanor Cappa, who is also their business partner. Stevens is the chef, Cappa looks after the wine (she was the wine buyer for Melbourne stalwart Movida for some years), while Cook tends to front of house duties.
The wine list currently extends across 150 listings, 30 of which are available by the glass, with 10 of those being premium pours dispensed via Coravin. Cappa also maintains a reserve list of cellared wines, with 50-odd bins and the oldest wine dating back to 1971. The wine offer is evenly split between local and international (predominantly European) bottlings. There are no absolute rules here, besides quality and character, but there is a natural tendency to those wines with sustainable and natural farming at their core.
Perhaps predictably, the menu of variously sized share plates talks in a broadly European accent, with everything except cheese made in house. Stevens also makes a feature of subtly threading honey through some of the dishes, both savoury and sweet, as Maeve was a mythical Irish warrior queen, celebrated as the queen of intoxication, with a fairly strong association with mead.