PORT OF CALL
THERE are many good reasons to visit Conlan’s Wine Store when in folksy-funky Port Fairy. The smart list of Victorian drops by the glass is one. The room full of cleverly chosen, forward-looking, nicely priced bottles to grab and go for the holiday home – or to drink in over a few bites or full-blown three-courser – is another. A courtyard for sunny sips when the weather’s fine and a menu filled with hearty warmers when it’s not are a couple more.
But the best reason has to be cans of Peroni Red for just five bucks. That three-hour drive from Melbourne almost pays for itself.
Conlan’s is the mid-tier offering of chef-patron Matt Dempsey’s trio of venues in this small town voted ‘the world’s most liveable’ a few years back. Joining the mod-Asian Hawker Kampong up the road and fine-diner Gladioli around the corner, it’s a simple space that lets good stuff in glass and on plate do the heavy lifting.
A whole prawn wrapped in nori, fried crisp in tempura and served on wasabi-spiked mayo is a clever and tasty opening snack, while cheesy jamón croquettes are crisp and crunchy and terrific alongside a zippy glass of Grampians riesling.
Roasted cauliflower florets tossed with buttery leeks and teamed with best-in-class Shaw River mozzarella is a new take on this oft-seen veg. Among the bigger plates, rich beef cheek with chickpeas and charred eggplant just needed an extra shake of salt to shine. A cracking crème brulée served with gingerbread-y biscotti is a lovely way to finish, though so is another splash of Pyrenees shiraz.
I’m not sure why somewhere with ‘wine’ on the door wouldn’t pour glasses of the stuff at the table, but it’s the only hiccup in service that’s country warm and welcoming. Promising a fine wine time but with bargain beer to boot, Conlan’s is a fairy good wine bar.
34 Bank St, Port Fairy, conlanswinestore.com.au