“When people walk into Wine 1160, I want them to feel like they’ve walked into somebody’s house.”
We’ve heard restaurateurs and bar owners talk this way before – about creating a sense of homely comfort and community in their venues, and Wine 1160 owner Prabir Majumdar is no exception. But after a career in international aid and community development, when he talks about home, or community, he means it.
“Melbourne’s wine bars are very traditional,” says Majumdar, “with the bartender on one side and the customers on the other. If I want a feeling of community I cannot have that separation.”
So at this wine bar, you won’t find actually find a bar. Instead, you’ll find a counter – as you might find in your kitchen – up against the wall, where glasses are arranged, cocktails are mixed and wine poured. There are two custom-made ceiling-high cabinets – one for whites and the other for reds. You’ll see Majumdar standing at one of these towering cabinets, or roaming the space keenly discussing the wine in your glass.
In 1992, at age 24, Majumdar migrated from Calcutta to Brisbane to begin a PhD in sociology.
“When I moved here I didn’t even know how to set a table, because in India we eat with our hands. My first job was in a restaurant and the maître d’ actually held my hands and taught me how to set a table,” says Majumdar.
In 2000 he moved to Melbourne to find work with an NGO and a year later he was in East Timor working as the country director for Oxfam Great Britain. His work has taken him to Indonesia, Gaza, Cambodia, Laos and Papua New Guinea, among others.
In 2015, Majumdar took three months off work and returned to Melbourne. It was then that his now 11-year-old daughter convinced him to open a wine bar so he could stay home for good.
Majumdar and wine consultant, Joshua Elias – also the editor of Alquimie, a wine magazine – curated the 160-bottle wine list. The food from head chef Jasmin Lefers complements the wine, not the other way around.
To match a glass of NV André Clouet ‘Grande Reserve’ Brut Champagne, the menu recommends you pair it with a bowl of popcorn covered in fine curls of Gruyère cheese. If you’re aching for a dessert wine – say a Moscato from Piedmont, Italy – keep it company with a ‘Pink Lamington’ with Moscato and coconut.
Wine 1160 is not just about wine. The suggested beverage with the charcuterie plate is a Flemish sour ale. There’s also a list of local and international beers and spirits that details their tasting notes and origins.
His vision was to create an “extended lounge room” for neighbours to have conversations, and he enlisted CG Design Studio to make that happen. A communal table sits in the centre of the space, around which there are small tables with armchairs, a banquette running along one wall, and a nook with a couch for two.
1160 High Street, Armadale
(03) 9509 9153
Wed to Sun 12pm-11pm
This article was updated on March 18, 2017.