On a sleepy residential corner in Essendon, a warm glow emanates from a large window shadowed by a convex awning.
Since May 2018, husband and wife Steve and Robyn Harris have operated Primrose & Vine, a boutique wine store with more than 250 drops. (Prior to that, it was Prince Wine Store’s Essendon outpost.) The bottle-o’s neighbouring shopfront has laid dormant since Harper & Blohm moved out (and into new digs in Brunswick) in October 2018. At that time, locals petitioned – with more than 500 in support – to transform the former cheese store and adjacent wine tasting room into a wine bar. And earlier this year, Steve and Robyn’s vision finally came to life.
Inside, there are a dozen or so wines by the glass, changing fortnightly, and two beers on tap. And any bottle (or beer) from the wine store’s shelves can be brought in with a small corkage fee. Steve says 50 per cent of the varietals are produced in Australia, while the rest are a mix of Italian, Spanish and French wines; you might find a light, fruity Mastroberardino rosato from Campania; a 2018 Parajes del Valle monastrell, a rich red from Spain; or a floral Domaine Alain Gautheron chablis from France.
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“I want to educate people about the flavour profiles of Italian, Spanish and French wine,” Steve says. But as well as these more traditional drops, you’ll also find a strong selection of lo-fi, sulphite-free and skin-contact wines, plus a huge craft-gin range.
For snacks, the team prepares cheese platters and grazing boards from a small kitchen – you can build your own or there’s an excellent jamon plate. If you’re after something heartier, though, woodfired pizzas can be delivered from Il Caminetto, which is only a few hundred metres away.
The two-tone space, designed by Robyn (an interior decorator by trade), feels like your mate’s living room. Settle into the cosy main dining room with its maple finishes and warm pendant lighting. A large Parapluie Revel poster hangs on one wall. The area by the window instead has darker wall paint and mosaic floor tiling. It’s designed for those looking to have a drink on the fly, with beautiful cork-look stools and a stand-up bar.
From this weekend, with an outdoor-dining permit just approved, Steve is converting the bottle-o’s drive-through into an outdoor-dining area during operating hours. “Dining in the drive-through, we’re calling it,” he says. “It’s doubled our capacity, we can have 32 indoors and 32 outdoors.”
Primrose & Vine Wine Bar
80 Primrose Street, Essendon