Mar­ion

Mel­bourne

Decanter - - RESTAURANTS - By Nina Ca­plan Nina Ca­plan is the 2016 Louis Roed­erer In­ter­na­tional Food & Wine Writer of the Year and New States­man’s wine writer

Din­ner in a store­room doesn’t sound much fun, but that all de­pends on the store­room. This one is next door to Andrew Mc­Connell’s Cutler & Co, and is also owned by him, which bodes well: even in food-ob­sessed Mel­bourne, Mc­Connell stands out for the num­ber and qual­ity of restau­rants he opens. Cu­mu­lus, Su­per­nor­mal, the much­missed Golden Fields… he has had few duds, and the good places are great.

What­ever Mar­ion once stored, it clearly wasn’t wine; Cutler & Co’s fan­tas­tic list is in­tact and this bar has ac­cess to it, as well as of­fer­ing a su­perb, fluc­tu­at­ing se­lec­tion of its own. There is half a page just on skin-contact whites ($59-$165/£35£100), and a full page of wines by the glass, from $9-$28 (£5.50-£17). And that doesn’t in­clude those the staff just hap­pen to have open, be­cause the ser­vice matches the stripped-back, white-brick walls and in­dus­trial fur­ni­ture: un­pre­ten­tious, ef­fi­cient and ex­tremely wel­com­ing. The kitchen is open, the but­ter house-made, the menu a col­lec­tion of let­ters on the wall, like a cross be­tween a Scrabble rack and an old-fash­ioned cin­ema’s Com­ing At­trac­tions. In­for­ma­tion isn’t gen­er­ous – ‘tortellini’ is a typ­i­cal en­try – but that, like the wine list, is just a good ex­cuse to talk to your waiter.

Crudo ($16/£9.75) turns out to be a gen­er­ous por­tion of cured sea bream, with or­ange, es­pelette and fen­nel; ‘prawn roll’ (£10/£6) is a riff on Su­per­nor­mal’s fa­mous lob­ster roll: a plump brioche ac­ces­sorised with lettuce and may­on­naise. Mar­ron (a fresh­wa­ter cray­fish from West­ern Australia) are grilled over red gum with miso but­ter and served with Pfeif­fer’s Se­ri­ously Fine Apera, an Aussie take on Sherry from Ruther­glen in north­east­ern Vic­to­ria.

Aus­tralian wine no longer fears com­par­isons, and here I could wan­der from France to Ge­or­gia via Hun­gary, if I wished. In­stead, I drink Aus­tralian: a Paringa Es­tate Pinot Noir from Morn­ing­ton Penin­sula with duck hearts; Rug­ga­bel­lus’ Sal­lio, a frankly strange Eden Val­ley blend that’s mainly Ries­ling, with mus­sels and nduja sausage; Do­maine Simha’s Simla 2015, an am­phora-aged Pinot NoirGa­may-Caber­net Franc field blend from Der­went Val­ley in Tas­ma­nia that tastes of sour cher­ries and goes su­perbly with veal tartare. I fin­ish in Clare Val­ley, with a glass of Gros­set 45, a spirit sin­gle-dis­tilled from Ries­ling by master winemaker Jef­frey Gros­set, hav­ing trav­elled half­way round the con­ti­nent and tried all man­ner of new and in­ter­est­ing com­bi­na­tions – and all with­out leav­ing the store­room. 53 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Mel­bourne, Vic­to­ria, Australia 3065; Tel: +61 (0)3 9419 6262, www.mar­i­on­wine.com.au Open daily 5pm-11pm, week­end break­fast 8am11.30am, lunch Fri­day-Sun­day from 12pm.

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