Sean Cheshire is all too familiar with Camberwell’s infamous liquor licensing laws. Before they were wound back in 2015 the area was classed as a dry zone, but the co-owner of new wine bar St Giles says that while change is slowly trickling in, the impact can still be felt in the local bar scene.
“With the licensing laws around here being archaic, it was a real battle growing up around this area to have a nice glass of wine anywhere,” says Cheshire, who opened St Giles along with Nic Gordon (of Elwood’s Blue Tongue Wine Bar). “I thought it was something that Camberwell desperately needed.”
St Giles is part of a new wave of bars in the area, sharing a postcode with Young’s Wine Room and Melbourne footballer Max Gawn’s new East End Wine Bar.
The wine list here is broad, with over 120 wines drawn mainly from Europe and Australia. By the glass it’s mostly smaller domestic producers, such as the Yarra Valley’s Jamsheed and Gembrook wineries, or Forest Hill Estate from WA’s chronically underrated Great Southern region. By the bottle, things open up, from Whistler’s What the Fronti? – a great example of modern Barossa winemaking that blends riesling, clairette, frontignac and semillon – to modern aromatic styles such as Italian fiano, which is gaining a lot of traction over here.
A big, bold La Pleiade shiraz – a collaboration between Michel Chapoutier from Rhône, France, and Ron Laughton of Jasper Hill in Heathcote – represents the food-friendly list well, begging for a great steak.
And steak is key here. Choose from five versions of steak frites (including a one-kilogram rib eye on the bone) prepared by chef Sebastian McQuarrie, formerly of Church St Enoteca. Small plates hero seafood – Port Lincoln sardines with parsley emulsion, and roasted octopus with XO and egg yolk.
Perhaps most exciting though is the vast array of cheese, charcuterie, fresh and tinned seafood, pates and pickles on offer, which you can use to build your own board. Everything on the list – from the $5 tins of Port Lincoln sardines to the boquerones (anchovies) imported from Spain, the spreadable ‘nduja and the little wooden pot of French Delice Cremiers cow’s cheese – is available to take home, too.
St Giles is located at Camberwell Place, a recently renovated shopping complex. With the help of Richmond’s Two Design, Cheshire aims to stoke escapism and create a warm, modern bar space. A healthy dose of plant life covers one section of the ceiling, and there’s a fireplace for the cooler months, wood panelling on the walls, and marble and white tiled surfaces throughout. It’s incongruous with its surrounds. The sounds of shoppers seep in, but you can take a lift straight up from the car park so it’s not necessary to ever venture out. It’s odd, but it’s not bad.
Considering the restrictions on drinking in Camberwell until recently, putting a wine bar inside a shopping centre is far from the weirdest part of the story.
St Giles Wine Bar, Cellar and Pantry
Shop 115A, 793 Burke Road, Camberwell
(03) 9882 1818
Mon & Tue 12pm–10pm
Wed to Sat 12pm–11pm