When Belle’s Hot Chicken opened in August last year, business partner Miranda Campbell and chef and co-owner Morgan McGlone knew they were in for something big. After all, who doesn’t like fried chicken with, “Really f**king hot” spice?

But to their surprise, diners didn’t just love the spicy bird; they also embraced Belle’s wine list which features natural wines, hand-picked from local winemakers such as Patrick Sullivan, Bill Downie and Tom Shobbrook.

For those unclear about natural wines, which may at times appear orange, cloudy or even smell a bit funky, “Natural wine is made with minimal technological or chemical interference,” Campbell says, “allowing for the truest expression of the wine’s terroir.”

“We wanted to showcase winemakers who have a passion for natural wines. We were ecstatic when people kept coming back for more, so much so that we became an unofficial cellar door for some of our producers.”

So when the adjacent space became available, the concept of a wine bar was born.

Opening next month, Bar Clarine will offer locally produced natural wines and a smaller selection of natural wines from France, Italy and Spain.

The food, however, will be completely different to Belle’s. Although yet to be confirmed, the menu will be “cuisine du marche” (market food) and will feature local and seasonal dishes that go well with natural wines.

“It will be French inspired, returning to our chef Morgan’s European roots. We’re thinking raw vegies, fresh fish, homemade cheeses and terrines by the inch,” says Campbell.

“We hope our customers will continue to drink wine with whatever they want to eat, whether that’s fried chicken or not.”

Once opened, Belle and Clarine will share an internal entrance so you can walk through both restaurants.

“Belle and Clarine are sisters,” says Campbell. “Belle is up for a raucous good time but Clarine is definitely more sophisticated.”

Bar Clarine is due to open at 150 Gertrude Street, Fitzroy in the first week of April.

belleshotchicken.com