Ever since Albert’s opened last year, behind a heritage-listed arcade in Armadale, it’s been buzzing. The wine bar, which first opened as a cafe while waiting for a liquor licence, clearly clicked with locals looking for a relaxed but considered place for a drink. If anything, there wasn’t enough space to meet demand. So, when the neighbouring hairdresser vacated, Albert’s owners Toby Koffman, Doug Milledge and Alice Freer jumped at the lease.
“Our outdoor area has always been quite large, but even though it’s completely sheltered, we knew we’d struggle when the weather cooled,” Milledge says. “Expanding was always on our mind.”
Regular visitors will notice Albert’s now has two different, redesigned indoor spaces, including one dominated by a beautiful new marble-topped bar with sage and terracotta colours running through the stone. Freer, an interior designer, has used classic materials and earthy tones throughout the venue.
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Classic European bars and eateries which transition seamlessly from day to night inspired Freer’s redesign. While the overall approach feels pared back, she’s punctuated the space with refined materials that elevate it subtly: painted metal wine shelving, antique stainless-steel tabletops and polished timber furniture.
The new bar, floor-to-ceiling linen curtains, burgundy-coloured ceilings and seats upholstered in soft leather give the bar intimacy and warmth, even with its expanded footprint (good news for fans who loved the cosy atmosphere of its earlier incarnation).
The concept behind the menu – share plates that lean Mediterranean – hasn’t changed with Albert’s new chapter, but the wine bar does have a new chef and, Milledge says, they’ve “expanded the menu to include more substantial options for people that graze into dinner”.
A rich rigatoni topped with beef short-rib ragu – perfect with a glass of red – has been a crowd favourite, new chef Aster Varagiannis says. But first, sample some of Varagiannis’s other snacks: a light Sicilian-style tuna ceviche; moreish whipped ricotta with honey, basil and crispy prosciutto; grilled marinated eggplant.
“On our days off, we try to visit different wineries and suppliers to source the best local produce,” Koffman says. They recently visited Long Paddock fromagerie in Castlemaine, and you’ll now find the maker’s cow’s milk cheese on the menu.
With Varagiannis, the Albert’s menu can also rotate more regularly and seasonally, “just as we do with our ever-changing wine offering”, Milledge says.
At any one time, there are between 180 to 200 wines on the Albert’s list – a diverse menu featuring local and foreign makers and a broad range of styles, including many small-batch producers.
“We get bored quickly, so our list is constantly changing,” he says, with a laugh. “Because of the light menu, it’s important our wines can be enjoyed with or without food. So you won’t find a whole lot of big Australian shiraz or Italian nebbiolo on our list, though we do have one or two.”
17 Morey Street, Armadale
Tue to Sun 12pm–late