Among the chaotic rabble of Chapel Street, it’s easy to forget to look up at the haunting architecture that extends above many of the street’s shop-fronts and cafes.
But co-owners of Yellowbird Cafe, mates and Windsor locals Dean Bowden and Clint Hyndman, are doing well to remind us of the area’s history. The Woods of Windsor is their new, dusky, old-world bar and eatery down the Windsor end of Chapel Street.
“Chapel Street is obviously well known, but people forget how it was in the 20s and 30s, in its heyday. We were really attracted to that style,” says Hyndman, who is also the drummer for Melbourne rock trio Something for Kate.
Having officially opened its doors last Friday, the boys say the venture is a natural progression from their more casual cafe just a few doors down, which landed on the scene five years back.
“Both of us live in the area, and we wanted to do something different...we both have a pretty big passion for whisky, food and wine,” says Bowden.
Marked by 1930s décor, complete with gramophone, Singer sewing machines, taxidermy animals perched on shelves, dark timbers, dim lighting, a moon shaped bar with high stools and an extensive drinks list, The Woods is the antidote to the area’s ailing bar culture.
“People are really starved for [something different],” says bartender and Broadsheet contributor Dave Kerr, who concocts a raft of bygone cocktails as homage to the strip’s former life.
Clover Club – a drink of the distinguished gentleman of the 1920s – is one such aperitif, an exquisitely mild mix of gin, lemon and raspberry. Old Pal, meanwhile, presents something a bit stiffer, with its mix of rye whisky, Campari and sweet vermouth.
While The Woods is charming, warm and sophisticated, the boys insist it’s not exclusive. Open late, they hope to attract students craving pale ale and fries as much as the refined cheese lover or spirit expert (who they cater for dearly with a broad whisky menu).
This inclusive attitude is mirrored by the generous menu. While Bowden describes some of the offerings as quite “gamey”, there is a host of vegetarian options too, including an old favourite of goats cheese and pine nut-stuffed zucchini flowers in tempura. The menu – created by head chef Nick Stanton (ex The Millswyn) and who has worked with the likes of Gordon Ramsay – is simultaneously adventurous and earthy, taking in dishes like king salmon carpaccio, pig’s trotter fritters, hanger steak and semolina dumplings.
Hyndman stresses that The Woods is “about having a place that’s accessible… We want to be a pre-dinner, during-dinner and post-dinner destination.”
And with a supper menu still to come and doors open until 1am daily, we’d happily venture into these woods any night of the week.
108 Chapel Street, Windsor
(03) 9521 1900