Spensley’s is located in that quiet, village-y part of Clifton Hill bounded by the Eastern Freeway, Yarra Bend, Hoddle Street and Heidelberg Road. There’s not much else nearby, which makes this classic, timber- and brass-clad wine bar a real anchor for the local community.
When the sun’s up, prams and dogs cruise past sporadically, their owners frequently stopping for chats or waving to friends through the site’s generous windows. By night, the timeless, bentwood-filled room acquires a more clandestine cast, with the soundtrack shifting a few gears up from Beach House and other dream-pop bands.
Head chef Alessandro Cristiano’s (Da Noi, Neighbourhood Wine) menu includes snacks and a clutch of larger plates. You might start with oysters and accompaniments, followed by patatas bravas croquettes and a bowl of the daily pasta. More substantially, you might run into roasted cauliflower with sumac, almond cream and charred onion; and pork belly, celeriac and shallots bathing in jus.
Despite this elevated fare, Spensley’s has something of an egalitarian streak. It’s the kind of place where you can pop in for a quick tap beer at the handsome timber bar (say hi to the business’s mascot, Larry the brass lobster) or stick around and explore the single-page wine list. Natural and skin-contact wines are favoured here, alongside as aromatic whites such as riesling and pinot gris, and leaner reds such as pinot noir and gamay.
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