Cru Bar & Cellar is woven into the fabric of Brisbane, with the pioneering venue never seeming to show its age, even after over a decade and a half. Wrapped around a central onyx bar, tables skirt the perimeter of the building, with patrons even seated on the sills of the retractable windows, almost spilling…
Snack Man is Cameron and Jordan Votan’s moody adjunct to their well-lit, minimalist canteen, Happy Boy. While the latter focuses on dishes from the barbecue and blisteringly hot woks, with craft beer and local small-producer wines, the latter is all, unsurprisingly enough, about snacks, or small plates, with inspiration coming from regional Chinese cuisine, and all matched with a ferociously cool selection of European lo-fi gems.
While occupying a similarly brutalist concrete interior as Happy Boy, black walls, low lighting and a mix of communal and comfortable seating lends an intimacy to Snack Man that would be out of place at its big brother. Marble-topped communal tables, bar seating, more leisurely lounge seating and outdoor tables caters for all moods and groups, with the locus of the space the massive wall of wine behind the bar.
That looming cliff of bottles skips through Europe with a focus on the lo-fi and artisan, featuring many a bellwether natural star, but it’s not confined to a dogma.
“Our selection is very much a blend of beautiful benchmark bottles from regions which suit our food, i.e. Grower Champagne, German Riesling, Chablis, Beaujolais, Tavel etc.,” says Cameron. “Producers with a focus on minimal intervention have become a big facet of what younger customers are actively searching for, so a big section of the wine wall is dedicated to what a lot of customers come in asking for as ‘natural’ wines.”
The key at Snack Man is communication, with no list of wines on the wall, but rather a conversation required. It’s a brave gambit for a perennially buzzing venue, but it’s pulled off with seaming ease, ensuring the right wines get in the right glasses.
Those wines are matched to a variety of Chinese small plates, with Cameron believing cherry picking regional dishes means they can match food to any of their wines. “In terms of selection the food calls for lighter, more vibrant styles. The subtlety of prawn dumplings is perfect with dry Rieslings and Chablis, while some of our richer and spicier dishes call for cru Beaujolais or vibrant acid-driven light reds.”
Snack Man carries some fair natural-wine clout. Dumplings and Ganevat? Sure. Shaomai with George Descombes Beaujolais? If you fancy, but maybe the Valette Mâcon may be a better fit… Yep, all by the glass, along with another 10 or so sought-after drops, and all dispensed via the magic of Coravin. If you want to keep that glass under $20, a daily selection is featured at the bar, with meaningful changes daily.
With the lockdown in effect, Snack Man was transformed into the more takeaway friendly Kid Curry. Snack Man will return to its small plate Chinese menu at some point, but in the interim you’ll need to match your Ganevat and Descombes et al with rendang or Thai green curry.
COVID-19 conditions: Snack Man closed up during the national lockdown, with the kitchen taken over with the Kid Curry pop-up, with the menu roving across the subcontinent and Southeast Asia. That pop-up has been a huge success, and it will move to permanent premises nearby at some point, with Snack Man returning once it does (October, all going well) – looks like a COVID success story right there.