Jay Bessell and Connie Cappello were in such desperate need of a holiday they sold their business. Built from scratch over the past five years, Carlton Wine Room has cemented itself as a north-side institution, taking out the Gourmet Traveller Wine List of the Year in 2013 and various other shiny, winey baubles. But the owners thought it was time to up stumps.
“We decided that it was time for the next chapter for both our careers, and both of us have young families,” says Bessell. “My little one’s in kindergarten, so it was really my last opportunity to spend some time with her before she heads off to school.”
As of March 30, Fiona Sheeran and Domenic Zanellini are the new owners, bringing with them their past experience as owners of Carlton cafes Haymarket Place and Briscola Espresso, as well as CBD restaurant Sarti.
The pair has plans to make Carlton Wine Room more “accessible” by dropping prices, altering the menu and opening all day for coffee, lunch and pastries. Further outdoor seating is on the cards, as is a bar area on the mezzanine level.
During his five years at the helm of Carlton Wine Room, Bessell believes the food culture in Carlton has changed for the better. “I think there’s a different confidence in the quality of food and wine in Carlton now,” he says. “It was a really good time to get in on the ground floor when things were starting to change.”
After handing over the keys, Bessell will be The European’s new head sommelier. “It was top of the hit-list for me,” he says. “It’s wonderful, I’m really excited to be involved with those guys.”