The Carlton Wine Room sits on the corner of Drummond and Faraday, near Brunetti and DOC. Co-owner Jay Bessell, who had been coveting the building for four years before snapping up the space, went into business with long-time friends and colleagues Michael Tenace and Connie Capello. All three worked together at CBD restaurant Il Solito Posto – Bessell as general manager, Tenace the owner and Capello in admin and accounts – and this opportunity seemed to good to pass on.
“I approached Michael and he thought it was a crazy-enough idea to do it,” says Bessell. What’s been created is a very smart room on the ground level and the building is gradually going to open up over the three levels.
The cellar downstairs is a private dining room for up to 12 people, with a handmade Tuscan rosewood dining table as its centrepiece. Street level sees mostly bar-height seating, a chef’s table and a menu that, yes, is typically share-plate heavy, but it has a refreshing approach.
“We are doing single serves or serves to share,” says Bessell. “So if you want to try a lot of things you can with single serves. This is the way I love to eat, you don’t need to fill up on it, just try a lot.”
The kitchen is headed by Matthew Silovic (who was most recently sous chef at Verge) and the food is being termed contemporary European, with a high-technical approach. High-tech often refers to the machinery in the kitchen – a Pacojet, sous vides and the like – which, when used correctly means interesting textures and combinations on the plate.
The wine list is reasonably short, but very well considered and seasonally changing. In the interests of responsible drinking, the Wine Room serves most bottles by the glass and 60ml half-glass so that you can sample more but still make it home in one piece. All we know so far is that it’s great to have an interesting bar in Carlton.