If foot traffic is a good indicator of a business’s future success, then Nina’s Bar & Dining is going to be just fine. Brunswick’s relaxed new restaurant, which opened this month, sits next to a sunny bike path opposite Anstey train station that hums with locals strolling, cycling and walking their dogs.

It’s the perfect setting for a community-focused restaurant like Nina’s, which is making good use of the neighbours. The bread is from Iris the Bakery, veggies are from Russel’s Fruit & Vegetables (as well as Keilor’s organic-certified Day’s Walk Farm) and coffee comes from nearby roaster Bench Coffee Co.

“If we’re all supporting each other and all busy then everyone’s happy,” says chef Shae Van Stebbing, who co-owns the place with restaurant manager Hayley Williamson. The pair met while working at Yarraville bistro Bar Romanee, and had joked about opening their own venue upon leaving.

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“It just happened a bit sooner than we thought,” says Van Stebbing. “We found this spot and fell in love with it.” They were particularly drawn to the building’s strong sustainability focus.

“There’s a rooftop garden, there’s worm farms, there’s a beehive,” says Williamson. Honey from the latter has been turned into Van Stebbing’s honey cake, served with blackberries and sour cream ice-cream. The pair are also growing tigerella tomatoes on the roof, which are currently paired with a peach and ricotta shokupan.

Van Stebbing’s veg-forward menu has no particular boundaries, but if there’s a throughline, it’s that it’s all deeply personal. Like the dry-aged pork cutlet dripping in a sweet and sour pineapple bacon glaze, inspired by one of his mum’s peculiar dinner wishes.

“When it was her family’s birthday they’d get to pick what they wanted for dinner, and hers would be ham steak and pineapple,” he says. “Her folks are Dutch so it’s pretty rogue, but I guess this is a nice [version of] ham steak and pineapple.

“We don’t really have a cuisine [at Nina’s] but it’s a sort of nostalgic feel with some of the food. One of my friends joked that it’s Aussie mum-y stuff.”

Case in point: a creamy potato salad with soft-boiled egg and a serve of charred baby cos with avocado sauce that would be welcome additions to any Sunday barbie.

The space matches the laid-back vibes with second-hand tables and chairs, wine shelves repurposed from the venue’s previous bar top and large windows that open out to the bike path or look onto a parklet and a wall of graffiti.

They wanted to open “something casual but still really good”, says Van Stebbing. “We want to bring that western suburbs hospitality vibe, where everyone’s welcome.”

“It’s good food, good wine, good service but in a really relaxed setting so you feel comfortable,” adds Williamson, who’s put together a killer wine list with a strong showing of rieslings, chenins and chardonnays.

Soon, she wants to add a wine by Bar Magnolia’s co-owner, winemaker Lawrence Scanlon, in another show of support for the neighbourhood. “I like to have interesting things you may not have heard of but [are] still really delicious,” she says. “Mostly minimal intervention, made well, where the winemakers care about the vineyard.”

Nina’s Bar & Dining
11 Florence St, Brunswick
(03) 9973 4309

Hours:
Mon & Thu 4pm–10pm
Fri & Sat midday–late
Sun midday–4pm

@ninasbrunswick