Hemingway’s Wine Room
East Melbourne can sometimes feel as if it’s set in a different era to the rest of the inner city, with its rows of ornate terraces, bluestone cottages and art deco apartments. It’s fitting, then, that Hemingway’s sets out to evoke the past.
The space – which has views across to the MCG – is divided down the middle, with a brasserie on the left and a wine bar on the right. Both were curated by local interior designer Rosie O’Donnell with the spirit of 1920s Paris and New York in mind. There’s geometric printed wallpaper, glossy high-top benches, and details such as gramophones, period-correct encyclopedias and botanical arrangements by Wandering Jungle throughout.
The wine-bar side is perfect for casual boozing, with a list by co-owner Greg Bagnara, who’s worked as a sommelier on European cruise ships. Covid has reined the list in a little, length and price-wise, but you’ll still find more than 100 wines here, ranging from $15 a glass to $1000 a bottle. Think classic European drops – such as the Ruinart house champagne and vibrant Laroche Petit Chablis – and enduring Aussie vintages, such as Kay Brothers’ full-bodied, basket-pressed McLaren Vale shiraz.
Big bottles for big, long lunches are in too. Friday to Sunday, get two courses from the main menu – as well as free-flowing wine from 1.5-litre magnums – for $109. There's also a tight five-cocktail list. Try the Torero Muerto, a mix of a mix of reposado tequila, apricot brandy, lime juice, and chilli- and coriander-infused agave. It’s inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s time in Spain.
While you can order food in the bar, the French brasserie is for more serious appetites. Head chef Patrick Dang has created a series of lavish seafood starters, including scampi tartare; hand-picked spanner crab with asparagus three ways; and “delicatessen-style” ocean trout with sauce gribiche (a mayonnaise-style cold egg sauce), heirloom beetroot and a spelt-bread chip. You can also have a cheese trolley wheeled to your table, with a rotating selection of local and international cheeses (and house-baked lavosh).
For something larger, there’s dry-aged Otway sirloin in a beetroot and pinot noir reduction with black-garlic coulis and chestnut mushrooms, and corn-fed Aylesbury duck with charred turnip and caramelised pineapple. Sides include roasted new potatoes with stracciatella, and grilled asparagus with olives and orange. And for dessert, there’s a Golden Delicious apple-inspired dessert with apple compote, white-chocolate mousse and salted-caramel strudel.