Graham Hill and Georgina Russell once sat in what was then Storm in a Teacup cafe, and imagined how perfect the fit-out would be for their yet-to-be wine bar. Fast-forward three years and the space is theirs. “We actually found it for sale on Gumtree,” the married pair says, laughing. “It was fate.”
Introducing Smithward: a cosy and intimate wine bar matching local produce with a European experience. Captivated by the homey vibe of the little backstreet bars in Madrid, the down-to-earth couple decided to bring a small and friendly wine bar to the neighbourhood. “If we can’t live over there, we’re going to bring it here,” says Graham.
In a space where you can’t swing a cat, everything you see is what you get. There’s no kitchen, but that might be the best part. “We’ll have cheese, lots of cheese, and it’ll all be on show to see … and smell,” says Graham. He’s referring to the raclette cheese grill that will take up residency on top of the bar. As you walk in, you’ll be greeted by the tantalising smell of raclette cheese being melted right off the wheel. “As it bubbles away, we spin it around, get the knife and chisel it off onto potatoes. All right in front of you,” says Georgina.
The menu will be a hand-picked selection of charcuterie and conservas (preserves) including pickles, plus rotating specials such as meatballs, tortilla and house-cured fish, served with Smithward’s own freshly baked bread. The wine list will include innovative and limited-release Australian wines. The couple plans to provide smaller regional wine producers the opportunity to get their wine into the glasses of appreciative Melburnians.
Graham and Georgina are opening Smithward this week. But maybe don’t tell your friends. This is a bar where you want to take your favourite other, or simply wind (or wine) down after a long day. Good secrets aren’t kept for long, though, and the bar will be a welcome addition to Smith Street’s already thriving food and wine scene.
Smithward opens on Wednesday 21 October.