This mil­len­nial-skewed wine bar is giv­ing bright, young things a new place to hang, though cool­ness comes with a price tag

Sunday Herald Sun - Stellar - - Eat Out - NEP­TUNE: RE­VIEWED BY DAN STOCK

“AT LEAST I’m not the old­est in here,” I thought to my­self look­ing around Nep­tune, Prahran’s lat­est wine and dine hotspot that’s pack­ing in the pretty peo­ple. I was, how­ever, the old­est who hadn’t been brought here for meal by my 20-some­thing kids.

Wel­come to Nep­tune, a wine bar by mil­len­ni­als, for mil­len­ni­als. And while it is wel­com­ing to all, it is firmly pitched at the newly minted wine drinker who’s grad­u­ated from sauv blanc and has a bonus to burn.

It’s a smart play by a quar­tet of clever hospo heads – broth­ers Dave and Michael Parker (San Telmo, Pas­tuso) join­ing with Nick Coul­ter and Si­mon Blacher (Hanoi Han­nah, Saigon Sally, Tokyo Tina). A more pol­ished of­fer­ing than the fun and funky Asian styles of the al­lit­er­a­tive sis­ters, Nep­tune ups the ante with a menu of tinned fish and cured meats plus lit­tle things to share.

Perched up the back by the roar­ing open fire (the more for­mal booths and ta­bles are only avail­able to book for four or more), it is a per­fect win­ter spot.

A small fritto misto of plump mus­sels and an­chovies swad­dled in sage are teas­ing morsels of fried crunch. Sliv­ers of egg­plant with bur­rata and buck­wheat is a happy plate of veg, while ab­sinthe-cured bonito is pretty, but over­pow­ered by a chilli oil dress­ing.

Like­wise, while there’s ev­ery­thing to like about see­ing the words “nduja” and “jaf­fle” hang­ing out to­gether, the fiery Cal­abrian sausage is per­haps too punchy for these re­fined wine styles.

It’s not, af­ter all, smashed av­o­cado that’s hold­ing back this room from cash­ing in their first home own­ers’ grant, but in­stead the worldly, wal­let­bust­ing wines on the wall that are avail­able to drink in or grab to go. It’s qual­ity, sure, and it comes with a price.

But where bet­ter to reach for the stars than with the god of the sea.

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