Food and Drink
Posted by Dan Kuseta
14. May, 2012
I reckon Queensbury Street in North Melbourne is one to watch in 2012. Over the past year the unassuming strip has seen the opening of heavy hitters like Beatrix and Twenty and Six Espresso, while last week there was a bookshop and now there’s Banter Wine Bar.
The idea behind Banter is deviously simple – interesting wines (most by the glass and under $10) and good pizza. If the flux of locals through the door by 6pm on a Wednesday night is any indication, they like the idea too.
The man behind that idea is Clinton Fox, an affable chap who honed his vino knowledge at places like Mr.Wolf and The Atlantic. He even traveled to Europe Italy recently on a mission to hunt out lesser know grapes and bring us back their secrets.
The result is a contained yet adventurous wine list with a gaggle of grapes I’d have more trouble pronouncing than drinking. Clinton suggests pinot gris fans might like the friulano, which he describes as tasting of “sun-ripened fruit”, while cab sav diehards (like yours truly) might enjoy by “the deep, brooding flavours” of the blaufrankisch grape from Austria.
In the kitchen Josh Wetere-Sweet (ex sous chef Mr. Wolf, St. Ali and Chin Chin) has put together a tidy pizza menu book-ended with some classic Italian entrees and mains like pork meatballs and braised lamb. Pizzas range from the classic margherita to the idyllic sounding caramelised leeks, gorgonzola dolce and pancetta. All pizza bases can be prepared gluten free .
I started with the zucchini entree ($6.5). Half a zucchini is hollowed out and stuffed to the gills with parmesan, baked then served on a blob of garlic aioli. The mush of the vegetable and the warm crunch of cheese make happy sparring partners, while the aioli packs a wallop. Make sure you’ve got a pack of PK if going out afterwards.
Next out is the pizza – calabrese salami, kalamata olives, anchovies, chilli, tomato, sugo ($19.5). Coming put thinner than a Macbook Air, the base is reassuring firm, which means you can pick it up and eat it with your fingers (as pizza was meant to be eaten). Yes it’s a little over-cooked, but the hot green chillis and sweet sugo base keep things interesting, while the olives from Mount Zero are little boulders of happiness. Washed down with my generous glass of blaufrankisch, all was well in the world.
As I prepare to leave Banter the place kept filling up, and as I emerged into the crisp autumn evening on Queensbury Street I kept thinking ‘what a bloody good idea’.
BANTER WINE BAR
562 Queensbury Street, North Melbourne
Tues – Sun 12 noon till late
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