There is always something intangible that separates good and great. It is normally a feeling that makes you want to stay; want to come back. I get that feeling at Bellota Wine Bar in South Melbourne.
The first time I came across Bellota was for a wine tasting. Eight excellent wines (some incredible) and a couple of nightcaps in the bar following the end of the tasting was enough to keep it at the forefront of my consciousness. We felt like a drink and there is almost no better place in Melbourne.
The menu is all about classic bistro dishes that lend themselves to wine. The selections are not necessarily numerous, but there is seemingly a dish to match to each wine, and a wine that will match each dish. We could have nibbled on terrines, salumi or cheese, but decided to be traditional.
I had the pork schnitzel with celeriac remoulade, egg and peppers. The schnitzel was perfectly cooked providing the crunch to offset the luscious remoulade with the slight chilli in the peppers adding some bite. Catherine ordered the bavette of beef with pomme frites. It had the normal slightly chewy texture, with some delicious tarragon butter (which could have been more generous), and packed plenty of flavour. A dish perfect for her Southern Rhone, and mine was a great match for the Bourgouge I had recommended to me.
One of the aspects that added to our enjoyment of the meal, besides the initial taster of Chablis and the great bar / dining room that is so conducive to relaxed conversation, was the service. Having been there once (for a few mind you) it was nice to be recognised a month later. More than that, the staff love their wine and are genuinely happy to be working. It doesn’t hurt that the sommelier from Stokehouse transferred here after the amazing restaurant came to a temporary close though fire.
Having somewhat settled in, we indulged in a valrhona chocolate almond cake with hokey pokey ice cream. For once it was not deconstructed! The chocolate was not overly rich or sweet, and combined nicely with the almond meal based cake which had a nice macaron style crust to it. The ice cream again wasn’t over the top on sweetness and left us wanting more!
Thursday nights don’t get much more enjoyable than this. An inner city wine bar with great food, completely packed, with staff having fun and the customers having a ball.