Bellota Wine Bar
Disclaimer: I did not pay for my meal, Bellota hosted a free media dinner. The opinions reported below are based solely on my thoughts at the time of my visit.
Address: 181 Bank Street, South Melbourne, VIC
Phone: (03) 9078 8381
Tuesday to Friday, 11am until 10pm
Saturday, 11am until 11pm
Closed Sunday and Monday
I don’t really ‘do’ South Melbourne. It’s not my side of town and there’s not much there that I’m desperate to see, or more importantly, eat. My favourite South Melbourne experience is the Claypots Seafood Peddler out the front of Claypots at South Melbourne Market. For less than $10 you can get a fresh, tasty seafood roll. It’s nothing fancy, but nothing in the area rivaled it, either. That is, until now.
Bellota Wine Bar opened recently in Bank Street, next door to the Prince Wine Store. Owners Alex Wilcox, Michael McNamara and Philip Rich have enlisted Brigitte Haffner from Enoteca in Fitzroy to run the kitchen, while offering over 3500 different bottles to drink from. Not that drinking from the bottle is encouraged.
When we visited on a Thursday night, the place was pumping. Maybe it had something to do with free corkage for wine over $80 from next door. Maybe it has something to do with the shellfish station or enticing cabinet showcasing suspended salumi. Or maybe, just maybe, it’s because there’s nowhere else to go for a decent feed in South Melbourne.
I was invited to Bellota—which, by the way, is ‘Acorn’ in Spanish—to sample the menu along with half a dozen others. Speaking of half a dozen, we started with Sydney Rock oysters from NSW and Pacific oysters from SA, slurping away and comparing the sweetness and coppery, mineral taste of each. I love oysters, but these, like almost all oysters in Melbourne restaurants, were sad and puny compared to the ones I ate fresh off the rocks in Tasmania.
Creamy cheese and jamon croquettes oozed béchamel when you bit into their crunchy, golden shell, while potted smoked eel with pickled beetroot revealed the menu’s Spanish influence.
A board of charcuterie arrived next, overflowing with five cured meats including Jamon Iberico de Bellota Puro. Thinly sliced bread, olives and goat’s curd were the perfect match. To me, this is what a wine bar is all about: quality sliced meat, beautiful produce and a bottle (or two) of wine. I would have been happy leaving it there.
I was underwhelmed by the spaghetti entrée with fresh tuna, eggplant, capers tomato and olives. The pasta was overcooked and tasted like a last minute meal I’d throw together at home. Thankfully the mains were much better.
Confit duck had a crisp layer of skin with soft, dark meat lurking beneath. Rich pomme boulangère and lively red cabbage made it the perfect winter dish.
For steak lovers, the Gippsland scotch fillet done with a simple herb butter, perfectly cooked pomme frites (it's French for chips, if you want to get a little bit fancy) and a side of fresh horseradish will not disappoint.
I wasn’t ‘wowed’ by the desserts, but that’s probably because I’m a chocolate lover and couldn’t see any cocoa on the menu. The walnut and honey tart was overly alcoholic tasting for most of us, and while the rest of the table raved about the yoghurt panna cotta with hazelnut and honey syrup, the juicy grapes diluted the creamy base in my opinion.
So what should you make of Bellota Wine Bar? Compared to the rest of South Melbourne, it’s a miracle. There wasn’t anything wrong with the food; overall it was beautiful. But I’m a woman of simple tastes, and when I return, it won’t be for lunch or dinner; it will be between Thursday and Sunday from 6pm to 9pm when I can sit at the bar, listen to live Latin guitar, gorge myself on charcuterie and drink an entire bottle of red wine to myself. Bliss.
Disclaimer: I dined as a guest of Bellota. The opinions reported above are based solely on my personal experience and thoughts at the time of my visit.