Quick in, quick out. That’s how the folks at Belle’s Hot Chicken – Morgan McGlone, Reno Pontonio and Miranda Campbell – imagine people will make use of Bar Clarine, the tiny wine bar they just opened next door.
“We really see it as a kind of European model,” Campbell says of the 20-seat, walk-ins-only space, which was conceived to showcase natural wines, or those made with “minimal technological or chemical interference”. “We’d like people to drop in, have a glass of wine and a snack, or maybe go out for dinner, then come by for something sweet on the way home.”
The two venues share an internal doorway, some staff and a passion for natural wine. But that’s it. Clarine has its own chef in Adam Shoebridge, who McGlone found while working at a fine-dining restaurant in Nashville, the same city where he discovered the hot chicken served next door.
On any given day there’s just seven different dishes leaving Shoebridge’s tiled nook up the back, but they’ll change up regularly while maintaining the French/Euro slant. Right now, there’s oysters; sardines on toast; pig head with herby, mayonnaise-like gribiche sauce; and a dulce de leche rice pudding for dessert.
All these can be ordered solo, but there’s also the option to traverse the whole menu, at $60 per person. “It’s not like a full degustation,” Campbell says. “It’s really designed to be snacky wine food.”
While it was available next door the trio first noticed how much interest there was in natural wine, but the concept was also a bit limiting. “The more high-end wines at Belle’s weren't really reconciling with $16 baskets of chicken," Campbell says.
Clarine – which means “little bell” in French – has its own list, reaching all the way from Yarra Valley Gewürztraminer ($60) to proper champagne ($200). There are wines by the glass, too, of course. “We were aware of creating a list that allowed people to explore the upper end, but we wanted it to be accessible, as well,” Campbell says.
When it comes to natural wine, though, that latter part is harder than it sounds. It’s sort of a brave new world, filled with unfamiliar names and obscure varieties. Thankfully, staff members Peter Jo and George McCullough, who helped design the list, are ever ready to answer any questions guests might have.
150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy
(03) 9077 0788
Tue to Sat 5pm‒11.30pm