159 Spring Street
Melbourne VIC 3000
+61 3 9654 6657
One of the good things about reverting back to full time hours at work (and if you work with me, you will know that there aren’t that many wonderful things about my company – hah!) is the monthly RDO that each full-timer gets. Everyone loves RDOs because it means being able to sleep in (a glorious thing if you happen to have your day off on a Monday), run errands that take longer than the half an hour lunch break that you’re allotted to and you get more time to spend with your loved ones. For someone like me, however, RDOs are for uninterrupted studying (ah, the life of a damn student) and sniffing out unvisited lunch places for blog fodder. Yep, I like to be productive on my days off, heh!
I owed fellow city-worker and occasional food-blogger, Dave, lunch and he owed me his undivided attention so I dragged him away from his desk (and those pesky protestors that were gathering force in front of his building) for some food at City Wine Shop. A bar, bistro, cafe and bottle shop rolled into one, its impressive wine list and its focus on churning out simple, European-influenced fare is a drawcard for Spring Street lunchers, theatre-goers and late night snackers alike. Having attempted to have a late supper with Martin here a few months ago, only to be denied because we had rocked up just as they were closing, this place has been on my radar for a while and given that Dave worked close by, it was an apt lunch venue. With its Euro-centric late 19th century charm and rows of wine bottles stretching to infinity, it is an ideal place for a romantic supper at 10pm on any given night but the place still holds its own at 12pm on a Monday night.
Our meals arrived just as the Spring Street suits rocked up, requesting a seat in the long communal table inside. We waited just over 20 minutes for our food to come, a little longer that what we expected seeing as the place was still practically empty when we placed our orders. We wouldn’t have minded the wait if we had been planning to have a long, boozy lunch but Dave had to run back into his office in 20 minutes which didn’t give us a lot of time to enjoy our food. We were slightly pissed off, but the good food then made up for it. Dave ordered a plate of orecchiette with braised beef ragu and shaved reggiano ($22). Style-wise, it was very similar to the orecchiette with braised lamb ragout that I enjoyed at The European which shouldn’t have surprised me seeing as both places are both run by Spring Street hospitality king, Con Christopoulos. The slivers of braised beef were soft and tender as one would expect, and the whole damn thing was in one word, tasty. I did, however, think the sauce was a bit too runny (WTF is with Christopoulos’ restaurants and runny pasta sauces?) but this was only a minor complaint.
I ordered the chicken schnitzel with Italian coleslaw ($26.50). Well, blow me away! This was one of the finest crumbed chicken dishes I’ve ever had and trust me, I’ve consumed many plates of parmas at trivia nights, and countless amounts of chicken strips (or like items) at more than a dozen take-away stores in as many years – yet nothing’s come close to this dish. The chicken, a breast on the bone, was beautifully tender and moist, and coated with an even layer of crunchy breadcrumbs, parmesan and herbs. It was delicious. I don’t think I could even TRY to make something this good – and trust me, I’ve been whipping up heaps of chicken dishes at home as of late (and probably enough servings of Jamaican jerk chicken to drive a Rastafarian nuts). The chicken was accompanied by a coleslaw of fennel, mint, watercress, red onion and capers, all held together by a ricotta dressing and a wedge of lemon for a bit of tang. I can see why this dish is a crowd favourite.
Dave may not have been able to order one of many wines available by the glass because he had to be back at the office – but because it was my day off, I could have whatever the hell I wanted, heh! I chose a Crawford River riesling from Henty ($10.50). It was soft, with a slightly chalky undertone that was accompanied by lovely, sweet honeysuckle and fruity notes. A wonderful accompaniment to my meal.
City Wine Shop might not introduce any new fads to Melbourne’s dining scene, but it simply does old things well. Very well. If I worked closer to Spring Street, I’d definitely be coming here every so often but alas, I will have to settle for lunches on RDOs or dinners. It’s a shame they don’t stay open past midnight. But that’s okay – that’s what The European next door is there for.