There’s something very appealing about a wall of wine. Especially when that wall is like the one at Essie Wine Bar: a huge American oak cabinet filled with minimal-intervention wines and drops from small, independent producers.
First-time venue owner Angus Brettingham-Moore – who’s spent time at Hobart’s acclaimed Franklin, and wine-centric venues closer to home including The Alps, Toorak Cellars, Milton Wine Shop and The Hills – says he has no personal connection to the name Essie.
“I had to think of a name with a day or two to lodge it,” he says. “I was driving along and heard the name. I think the name is a representation of the place; a character people want to come and hang out with.”
Essie owes a lot of its charm to the bones of the Victorian heritage building it’s in, which used to house a medical business downstairs and the Josh Cohen School of Music upstairs. Brettingham-Moore completely overhauled the interior himself. One hundred-year-old Baltic pine floorboards come from a house being demolished in Kew. Old fireplaces, set into distressed brick walls, have been repurposed for gas but retain their old-world charm. The result is a cosy, low-lit space with lots of little nooks, so you can have your own little corner, hidden from other groups, but feel still part of the mix.
A weeping cherry tree is the central feature of the sun-drenched open-air courtyard, which has timber tables and long bench seating flanked by lines of lilly pillies.
Essie stocks old- and new-world wines with an emphasis on independent producers. “[Winemakers] who care about what they’re making, are hard-working and have a focus on what they’re doing,” says Brettingham-Moore. “The wines speak highly about where they’re from, and are full of life and [are] expressive.”
Yuri Zinenko’s small-batch winery Calyx, which is essentially a shed surrounded by an acre of vines in Keilor, is a good example. Brettingham-Moore is pouring his Neb Noir, which is made from nebbiolo and pinot noir grapes from Victoria’s Pyrenees region. The grapes are left on skins for three months, resulting in a fruit-forward wine with a little tannic flare.
Another favourite is a shiraz from Jonjo McEvoy and Oliver Johns of Cré Wines in the Yarra Valley. Served chilled, it’s light and juicy – perfect for a sunny afternoon in the courtyard.
The focus is on the wine, but there are a couple of beers on tap – WA Colonial Draught Ale and Wolf of the Willows XPA – and tins from local craft brewers.
For snacks, Brettingham-Moore will whip up a cheese or charcuterie board, or open a tin of Oritz sardines and slice up some baguette. Other deli treats come from the Prahran Market. A jaffle menu includes fillings such as mac’n’cheese; bolognaise and mozzarella; chilli jam and gouda; and pastrami, mustard and pickle.
Essie Wine Bar
35 Station Street, Malvern
(03) 9500 0218
Mon to Wed 3pm–10pm
Thu to Sat 12pm–11pm
This article first appeared on Broadsheet on (October 31, 2019). Menu items may have changed since publication.