In an age where we most value mod cons and on-trend renovations, it’s refreshing to pay tribute to the old school. Jimmy Watson purchased an 1890s wine saloon and made it one of the nation’s first wine bars in 1935. His son and grandsons have set about keeping it alive.
Very little has changed in the main restaurant since influential architect Robin Boyd’s do-over in 1963. The old-world bar and velvet-lined couches upstairs are usually reserved for functions. An original Pentridge Prison door is a feature.
The 2012 additions are a little bit edgier. Wolf’s Lair is an intimate, eccentric bar with a cocktail focus. In summer, the Astroturf-lined rooftop featuring crates and comfortable cushions is a hotspot.
Food is reliable comfort plates of lamb shank, seafood bouillabaisse or a steak for your red. There’s also an affordable range of pizzas.
The wine list shows off each region’s best varieties. Pinot noir is sourced from Mornington Peninsula or Central Otago, rather than Margaret River. Top shirazes come from South Australia’s Fleurieu Peninsula.
The highly sought-after Jimmy Watson Trophy honours the late pioneer by recognising the best one- or two-year-old red wine. It’s awarded every year by a panel of experts at the Royal Melbourne Wine Show. Past winners include Home Hill Winery’s Kelly’s Reserve pinot noir and a syrah from SC Pannell in the Adelaide Hills.