With some of Melbourne’s finest palates in attendance, Best’s winemaker Justin Purser was kind enough to guide us through five decades of their ‘Old Vine’ Pinot Meunier. This was a rare chance to see just how well it ages in ideal conditions.
Wineslinger venues adapting to COVID-19
We’re living in unprecedented times, that’s for sure. For wineslingers across the country, that has meant going into hibernation mode or, for some, and probably many, closing for good. But plenty are adapting to a constantly changing environment, switching to takeaway and home delivery. We asked Sally Wilson and Jeremy Shiell to check in on our past Wineslinger Top 50 venues to see how they were faring in these most challenging of circumstances.
When I call mid-morning, Bellota Wine Bar’s head chef Nicky Riemer is preparing a large pot of pork shoulder ragu. The dish is part of a new menu of pre-cooked meals on offer as part of the South Melbourne business’ response to the extraordinary and rapidly changing circumstances presented by coronavirus shutdowns and social distancing.
“We are trying to do as much as we can to make our food as accessible as possible. We’re focusing on pre-made meals, so our customers can come in and buy them from the Prince Wine Store, or arrange a delivery through the website, and then simply reheat them at home.”
Think about your budget, how much you can spend, and try to buy from one unusual supplier once a week, whatever you can do to keep us all going.
Just months ago, this takeaway and home delivery model of hospitality would have been hard to imagine operating on an industry-wide level. But with restaurants, wine bars and cafes across Australia having to shut their doors due to COVID-19, here we are.
Business not so usual
In Paddington early this week, Andy Ainsworth, manager at 10 William St, found himself boxing up orders following the restaurant’s first ever sale of cellar wines – via Instagram. This quick shift in business approach was only possible following recent but temporary arrangements announced by the New South Wales government, which give some licensed premises in the state greater flexibility to sell alcohol for consumption off premises.
“Regular customers and fans of rarer, sought-after wines were jumping on board and showing their support,” Ainsworth says.
What these pivots demonstrate is that hospitality will find a way, even in challenging circumstances, by virtue of its sense of community, shared experience and adaptability.
“Even in the last week before the shutdown measures took effect, even with distancing we had a few busy nights at Bellota,” Riemer says. “People were coming in to share their love. It made me realise that we are an important industry, which will come back, but it will also be different.”
In Adelaide, Africola’s head chef and founder Duncan Welgemoed has transitioned his restaurant to takeaway using a delivery platform in the course of a week. “We have also offered 50 per cent off of our menu to healthcare workers and provided a free takeaway menu for all our casual and stood down full-timers,” Welgemoed says. “I cannot do much in this situation but making sure people are fed is paramount.”
Changing an entire business model overnight is no small task. “We are a tactile restaurant – hugs, shots and eating with your hands – so moving that format to one that resembles a laboratory from Alien Resurrection has been an experience,” Welgemoed states. “But the positive is that we are trying really hard for the food to convey Africola’s generosity and love.”
Africola, 10 William St and Bellota have all featured in the Young Gun of Wine’s Wineslinger Awards in the past two years. These awards celebrate the best venues around Australia for enjoying a glass of wine; places where approachability, energy and adventure are the norm.
In normal circumstances, these qualities empower people to discover exciting wines and winemakers.
Through this crisis, it is community support that becomes essential. “The industry has a hugely important role to play in most people’s lives,” reflects Ainsworth. “We need spaces to eat, drink and socialise, so it will be really important that people get behind hospitality initiatives, because it will make for a much smoother transition on the other side, which we can all benefit from.”
Riemer agrees: “I would say, think about your budget, how much you can spend, and try to buy from one unusual supplier once a week, whatever you can do to keep us all going.”
High stakes numbers game
The impacts of the government’s stimulus package for the Australian economy generally, and the hospitality industry specifically, are still taking shape. The newly announced JobKeeper wage subsidy plan – a $1,500 fortnightly payment for some workers at businesses impacted by the crisis, available over the next six months – is amongst measures relevant for hospitality businesses and their staff.
We need to change, but let’s make it a positive change.
“As we see it, the main effect of the wage subsidy will be keeping on key personnel that make the business tick,” says Ainsworth. “When it does come time to open up again, those people will have maintained involvement in the business, enabling us to re-open with a level of energy and continuity from where we left off.”
While welcome on the one hand, there is confusion about what the stimulus package means in practice, and whether the impact of the wage subsidy will be timely or enough.
“The reality is that we will lose a high proportion of hospitality businesses. Some businesses that were already sailing close to the wind would have closed overnight,” observes Welgemoed. “Others will stand down and wait it out until all options are exhausted, and then there are businesses like us that will continue to trade, shifting and shaping to each government announcement.”
Restaurants and bars are amongst those with a heightened sense of what the crisis means culturally, economically and existentially. What Ainsworth sees most strongly is our own agency in shaping the after-effects of the pandemic: “The world will be different. We need to change, but let’s make it a positive change.”
The venues adapting and slinging food in your local neighbourhood
The following is a list of the Wineslinger Top 50 venues still trading in one form or another during this time. Please contact us if we’ve missed any venues or there are changes missed, and we’ll update the list.
XO Restaurant, Narrabundah
Take-away and delivery available, seven days, 5-9pm.
Bar Rochford, Canberra
Closed at present, but will lean on their take-away license “at some stage”.
Italian & Sons, Braddon
Free delivery with any food order that also orders wine to inner north.
Eightysix Eats, Braddon
Takeaway and home delivery, Wednesday to Sunday from 5pm.
10 William St, Paddington
10 William St’s sister venue Fratelli Paradiso is offering a food menu
Bibo Wine Bar, Double Bay
Takeaway menu and winelist available.
Dear Sainte Éloise, Potts Point
Takeaway available, and delivery within 3kms. Orders via phone.
Fix Wine Bar, Sydney
Offering food packs, with items from their very own suppliers. Details via their Instagram or website.
Fratelli Paradiso, Potts Point
Saturday pick-up and delivery of vegetables boxes, grocery, pre-batched cocktails and wine, $5 delivery further afield to Byron, Bangalow, Broken Head, etc.
Love, Tilly Devine, Darlinghurst
Takeaway comfort food, and no need to exit the car. Everyday from 3pm until 8pm except Sundays. Orders via email or phone.
Mary’s Underground, Sydney
Delivery via Deliveroo. See website.
Monopole Restaurant & Bar, Potts Point
Supernatural, Byron Bay
Free delivery for curated packs in the Northern Rivers region. And you get a chat with Pete at appropriate social distance.
Stone House, Darwin
Bottleshop open for takeaway, and takeaway meals from Charlie’s of Darwin.
1889 Enoteca, Woolloongabba
Gauge, South Brisbane
Takeaway menu, lunch and dinner for two packs. Can add pre-batched cocktails from the lads at Maker.
Gerard’s Bistro, Fortitude Valley
Takeaway dinners available. See Instagram for the day’s menu.
La Lupa, Brisbane
Open Monday to Saturday from 5pm for takeaway or delivery.
Takeaway menu available, and 50% discount for all healthcare workers.
Bar Torino, Adelaide
Takeaway and delivery available.
East End Cellars, Adelaide
Looking at putting together a food offer soon. Keep an eye on their social media.
The Summertown Aristologist, Summertown
Offering organic vegetable boxes, bread and butter, available for pick-up. Fridays and Saturdays with orders in by midnight Wednesdays.
The team at Etties are running a takeaway menu through their sister venue Willing Wine Bros.
Institut Polaire, Hobart
Bottled cocktails available and free delivery.
Take-away available Tuesday-Sunday 11am-7pm
Tom McHugo’s Hobart Hotel, Hobart
Open 2pm-8pm Tuesday–Saturday for takeaway food and booze offerings.
Bar Liberty, Fitzroy
Open 9am–6pm Monday to Sunday, for takeaway pies, pastries and coffee.
Bellota, South Melbourne
Take home meals and delivery available via Prince Wine Store website.
City Wine Shop, Melbourne
Free delivery within 10km of the CBD when you spend over $150.
France-Soir, South Yarra
Takeaway menu available, and delivery as well.
Gerald’s Bar, Carlton North
While Gerald’s Bar might be closed for a while, they have a nifty Spotify playlist so you can pretend you’re there, and neighbourhood butcher Skinner & Hackett sells Gerald’s Bar’s ready-made meals.
Gertrude Enoteca, Fitzroy
Sales by appointment at this stage…
Wednesday-Sunday, 8am-1pm, with bread and groceries.
Also offering vegetable boxes from their small-scale farmers. Pre-order by phoning Marion. Take away Saturdays. Any remaining boxes will be available for purchase on the day.
Napier Quarter, Fitzroy
Currently closed but keep and eye on their Instagram for any further developments.
Neighbourhood Wine, Fitzroy North
Uber eats lunch and dinner, offering a free litre of wine or beer with all pick up orders over $100.
Billie H, Claremont
Takeaway service available.
Il Lido, Cottoesloe
Takeaway, seven days, 7am-8pm.
Petition Wine Bar & Merchant, Perth
Home delivery menu available.
Settler’s Tavern, Margaret River
Presently closed. “We understand that take-away food and beverage sales will still be permitted, and we are considering these options… stay up to date on our Facebook page.”
Strange Company, Fremantle
Takeaway, pick up or delivery available.
Wines of While, Perth
Bread, preserves, pasta and accompanying sauces available for take away.
Article by Sally Wilson, and venue listing by Jeremy Shiell.
Please contact us if we’ve missed any venues or there are changes missed, and we’ll update the list.