As more apartment blocks sprout up in and around Fortitude Valley, both the suburb and the venues that populate it are starting to mature.
Take Mr Chester. Not long ago it was hard to find any kind of wine bar in the Valley. Then Grape Therapy (now Proud Henry, a “ginoteca”) and Baedeker moved in. Mr Chester, though, takes things to a whole new level. This isn’t a bar with a decent selection covering old-world and new, but a dedicated wine bar where the only other drinks available are one beer, two whiskies and two gins. Even the food, thoughtfully curated as it is, takes a back seat.
“We want to promote a dialogue around wine,” says Luke Reimers, who co-owns Mr Chester with Wayne Murphy. “Some people tend to be a bit stuck in their ways with wine selection. We want there to be healthy conversation about wine.”
After years working as a sommelier and dabbling in restaurant design in Melbourne, Reimers moved north and teamed up with Murphy to tackle his own venue. The Church Street location might seem a little out of the way, but begins to make sense when you realise the Alpha Mosaic Apartments are upstairs, James Street is a stone’s throw away and the brand new Happy Boy is just around the corner.
The space is clean with polished concrete and moody lighting. Both communal tables and pairs are available, the alternative a relatively low-set, welcoming bar.
Eschewing the bigger wine distributors, Reimers and Murphy are peddling a rotating list from a wide range of winemakers, separated into light, medium, full and skin contact. Reimers says more than 220 wines were involved in the research phase to compile a current selection that includes Alpha Box & Dice, Mac Forbes and Koerner.
The food is kept simple to complement the wines. Rather than poring over menus, Reimers prefers to make informed decisions based on the wine you’ve ordered – say, a Beal & Co chenin blanc paired with the chicken and pistachio terrine.
Cheese selections tend towards the exotic – try a 36-month aged parmigiano-reggiano paired with Bee One Third honeycomb – and a former high-profile Sydney chef named “Juliana” is supplying handmade pates and terrines. An old contact of Reimers, he won’t be drawn on her identity except to say, laughing: “It felt like she was interviewing me to be able to sell her products, not the other way around.”
2/850 Ann Street (Enter from Church Street), Fortitude Valley
Wed to Mon 4pm–late