In what was formerly Matteo Bruno’s Meatball & Wine Bar on Chapel Street, the restaurateur has installed Ines, a new drinking spot named for his nonna.
“We’re really trying to leverage off those old-school bars in Europe,” says Bruno, who also owns Hawaiian-style seafood and cocktail bar Hana, in the CBD.
Bruno describes Ines as a “love project” honouring his 93-year-old grandmother, who lives in the small northeast Italian town of Asti, and who taught Bruno’s mother to cook.
The furnishings are new and the menu has been refined, but fans of the old spot will still find meatballs among the plates.
Melbourne-based Techne designed the original fit-out, which Bruno has tweaked for Ines. Visitors will still find a palette of Italian marble, brass and walnut timber, while Bruno has “replaced the old tables and chairs with lounges and booths, added in some rugs and softened the lighting”.
“We want to make Ines a relaxed yet sophisticated lounge that people can stay in a while, enjoy some wine and something to eat without feeling like they are being pushed out,” he says.
The food offering is largely small share plates, with a strong French and Italian influence. Meatballs come in the form of veal and porcini polpette with polenta and roasted mushrooms. Diners will also find oysters with champagne mignonette; baked goats cheese with honey and flatbread; as well as a Wagyu tonnato – thinly sliced beef with tuna mayonnaise and fried capers. Tonnato is usually made with beef from young, male dairy-cow breeds, rather than the highly marbled Japanese cattle reared specifically for eating.
Larger plates include a house-made pasta with grilled prawns and prawn bisque; and an eye fillet with roasted potatoes and tarragon butter. For dessert, there’s a chocolate tiramisu with mascarpone and Marsala cream.
Cheese and charcuterie are available for those who seek something to nibble on with one of the 90 wines on offer, mainly from Italy, but also from France, Germany, Australia and New Zealand. Classic cocktails are whipped up by Italian bartender Stefano Cinelli. They’ll be sipped as old-school tunes by Frank Sinatra, Louis Prima, Ray Charles and more play from the speakers.
Ines Wine Bar
150 Chapel Street, Windsor
(03) 9521 4465
Tue to Sat 5pm–late