Some years back, Christian McCabe left behind successful restaurant Matterhorn, in Wellington, to try his luck across the Tasman. That first venture was the celebrated, though now closed, Town Mouse in Drummond Street, Carlton. Along with Town Mouse chef and co-owner Dave Verheul (a Matterhorn alumnus), McCabe branched out further, and more boldly, in 2016….
Before the confidently elegant Ettie’s opened its doors in the old Hobart Hotel building, Carl Windsor and James Kingston were best known for their North Hobart wine bar, Willing Brothers Wine Merchants. Housed in an old shop front, Willing Brothers is a few hundred street numbers north up Elizabeth Street and doesn’t quite have the historic gravitas that Ettie’s commands. But what it lacks in sandstone, it makes up for in buoyant spirits and general conviviality.
Willing Brothers is a classic neighbourhood wine bar done extremely well, a tight space, more often packed than not, with an infectious buzz to it. Like any good bar, the energy of the owners and staff carry the mood, with serious wine matters dealt with expertly and with the minimum of fuss. There are around 300 bottles on the list, with many arrayed on the formidable wine wall opposite the bar, and the selection is democratic, with bins from far and wide. The by-the-glass offer stretches to 15–20 ever-changing items, with any one listing lucky to last a fortnight. There is also a healthy selection of artisanal beer and spirits on offer, with a lean towards the local.
The kitchen and the bar share pretty tight quarters, and the food is “classic, simple but full of love and flavour.” Indeed, steak frittes has become the signature of Willing Brothers – simple things done well. The half dozen middling and larger plates are complemented by classic wine bar morsels – charcuterie, olives, cheese – with a couple of sides to add some green.