We’re living in an era of hybrid hospitality, with a perpetually growing list of cafe-wine bars like Sleepy’s and Sunhands, restaurant-wine bars like Embla and Parcs, and wine bar-listening bars like Waxflower and High Note.

Earth Angels in West Melbourne takes the hybrid concept and pushes it even further. At its core, it’s a wine bar and a restaurant, but it brings a lot more than food and drink to the table.

“We really want to make it a one-stop shop for anything creative,” Sasha Chifura, who co-owns the venue with DJ and producer Emmanuel John (better known as his stage name Skin on Skin), tells Broadsheet.

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And that’s reflected in the venue’s eclectic program. It’s hosted pop-ups with online food darlings like Rahel Stephanie of @eatwithsp00ns; on Thursdays there are jazz nights led by an in-house collective called Angel Sound Ensemble; a Wednesday-night chess club is due to kick off in the coming weeks. And there’s a plan for fashion collabs, pop-up markets, exhibitions and performances.

The light-filled venue has a large back courtyard that will soon be used for Saturday makers’ markets, and there’s discussion about converting the upstairs office into a gallery space and turning the venue’s in-built shelves into display areas for a retail offering.

Much like his venue, Chifura, is a multi-hyphenate with experience in music and wine. He’s the founder of talent management agency Foreign Echo, co-director of record label and artist development company Valve Sounds, and co-creator of independent wine label Playground Wine.

He plans for music to be a big part of the Earth Angels offering and says that using the space in a variety of ways – including for events and performances – provides a more exciting customer and staff experience and makes the business more economically sustainable. “If we have different income streams, we can make it relatively more affordable for the customer and have other pillars to lean on financially,” he says.

The food and drink offering – which Chifura works on with bar manager James Cohen, bar tender Gigi Cook, and head chef Narit Kimsat (ex-La Pinta) – remains a core component of the venue’s operations.

Cohen and Cook’s drinks range includes natural wines from around Australia and Europe as well as drops from Playground Wines. There are also house spins on classic cocktails like a coconut-spiked “Angel Margarita” and non-alcoholic options like Tina.

Chef Kimsat was considering a move overseas before he got the opportunity to join Earth Angels. “I feel like this place gave me an opportunity to be me,” he tells Broadsheet. “I just want the customer to feel good, to feel happy about what they do, so I channel different parts of my life where I am happy [into my food].”

This is seen throughout the menu, including in dishes like the sugarloaf cabbage with Chinkiang (black vinegar) and chilli oil, which was inspired by the Xinjiang-style lamb offal that Kimsat remembers from Bowltiful five years ago when it was on Elizabeth Street.

There’s a $65 per person five-course set menu, as well as an à la carte offering. Kimsat says that with the exception of oysters, everything served at the restaurant comes from approximately a five-hour drive from the venue.

Most of the menu is changing and built around a medley of Dog Creek Growers produce, local meat and herbs urban-foraged from around the inner west. Recurring dishes include spiced mutton shoulder, dry-aged duck and the customer-favourite chicken wings, deboned and served with red curry sauce and onion atop a star-shaped bite of white bread.

Earth Angels
225–229 Victoria Street, West Melbourne
No phone

Hours:
Wed to Sat 6pm–11pm

earthangels.bar