Melbourne hospitality veterans Roy Merrington and David Danks originally crossed paths at Fitzroy's now defunct two-hatted restaurant Guernica. They were both seeking a tree change for their families and decided the old gold-sorting room of 1850s boomtown Bright would be the perfect space for a joint venture. They opened underground wine bar Thirteen Steps in 2012 and have been filling seats by word-of-mouth since.
This taste-driven den celebrates local wines. Merrington sources from the region’s smaller producers, whose wines are often sold out before they’re even released to market. If you can’t find a particular bottle at a cellar door, it might be in the Thirteen Steps cellar. Try wines from Ringer Reef, Delatite, Sorrenberg, Dalbosco, Mayford, John Gehrig and Castagna. The restaurant also has a bottle shop licence, so you can open a bottle, drink a glass and take the rest home.
Guests might be sardined in tight next to neighbours, but when it’s -2 degrees out, Thirteen Steps is where you want to be. Jazz and blues croon from a record player as each night’s service commences, with the music ramping up as night does.
On the food front, vegetarian dishes such as the haloumi with soused onion, baby carrot, green beans, walnuts and pomegranate are intersperses with meaty winter warmers such as slow-roasted lamb shoulder with celeriac, green apple, pine nuts and smoked eggplant; and the buttermilk-fed Bannockburn chicken with black bean, jalapeño, mint and red cabbage slaw.
Explore Bright further using our detailed Out of Town to Bright guide.