Bellota, South Melbourne.
I’M RIGHTING a wrong that’s been a long time coming. Named by some of my favourite south-side eaters as their favourite south-side spot for eating (and drinking), it’s an achievement for me not to have visited South Melbourne’s four-year-old Bellota until now.
It has everything that makes my heart beat faster: cured meats and oozy cheeses, classy bistro fare, and a world of wine for the drinking thanks to the adjoining Prince Wine Store. But news that Nicky Riemer (ex-union Dining) is now in the kitchen here cooking her flavour-first, Euro-leaning fare was all the reason I needed to make amends.
This cold midweek night, the room is filled with the easy laughter and contented chatter of the comfortable, lived-in local, where spots at the bar are taken by couples dropping by for a drink on the way home. Further back, tables are set with the linen, hefty cutlery and elegant glassware for a wine list firmly pitched at those for whom spending $40 on a glass of opulent Burgundy makes perfect, if heady, sense. Or go next door where $15 corkage will buy you a bottle from the extensive – and impressive – retail selection.
It all makes a great home for Riemer’s food. Whether sublime spaghettini tossed through smoked eel and covered in garlicky pangrattato, flat iron steak, sliced and topped with a panful of thyme-laden, creamy mushrooms, or a vibrant rainbow of beetroots and carrots served with excellent salsa verde, this is happy-making food of the highest order.
A Moroccan b’stilla filled with venison and served with punchy mustard fruits is an elegant twist on a classic, as is the delicate harissa heat to kingfish topped with tiny onion pickle.
Sevice is switched on in a casual manner, while the courtyard is begging for afternoon oysters and bubbles. Yep, I can see why so many love Bellota.
FROM TOP The elegant dining space, and the medley of beetroot and carrot.