Tregan Borg reviews Smalls Bar, Yarra Place South Melbourne
Smalls Bar, 20-22 Yarra Place South Melbourne www.smallsbar.com.au
Smalls Bar recently opened adjacent to the long standing Melbourne cafe St Ali.
St Ali has been around for a few years and still remains one of Melbourne’s most sought after coffees and breakfasts.
You are sure to be faced by a line out of the door on any given weekend.
However despite them being very close neighbours and the food coming out of the same kitchen Smalls easily stands on it’s own two feet and is a cool space that sets itself apart from the hustle and bustle from it’s big sister next door.
No buck’s been spared decking the venue out with lots of marble, booth seating and hand made tiles. The the space is fresh and hits the right tone without being a cut copy of every new Melbourne eatery to open its doors.
Smalls encompasses more than the sign on the front door, and the business name.
The venue seats 24, so quite literally the place is small, however the focus on small and sustainable producers of wine also fits the bill, along with small share plates of food to enjoy.
It’s the type of food that you want when your sipping wine over an easy conversation, easy to eat, salty, savoury bite sized.
With only 24 patrons to look after, owner Jess Ho (who has a CV as long as my arm but has dabbled in front house, back house, editing & creative writing, food blogging and reality TV) was able to give us the time to help us make informed food choices. I like to eat based on my own personal tastes but also on what is popular.
A complimentary dish of fried chickpeas dusted in aleppo pepper arrived at our table, a courtesy that is extended to everyone who walks through the doors. I always love something for nothing and these definitely fit the bill when it comes to a good bar snack.
It was recommended we kicked off with a couple of Tassie Oysters, natural and kilpatrick. The kilpatrick are a spin on the traditional kind, oysters are lightly poached in a pork broth, then finished off with crispy pancetta and sourdough crumb.
Scotch eggs ($9) were an obvious choice, being Andy Gales kitchen (duchess of spotswood and station hotel). Gale has built a reputation for turning British classics into delicious and modern meals. The scotch eggs were perfectly cooked with a runny yolk, tasty pork, good golden crumb and a house made brown sauce.
For under ten bucks pretty happy faces after eating this.
The cinnamon quail ($15) came whole and the skin was the most beautiful golden colour. Quail is one of my favourites, and it was cooked beautifully, with a really nice balance on cinnamon and salt.
The grilled cauliflower with savoury granola and smoked yoghurt ($12) sprung out on the menu. Having recently seen it on a few menus recently I get the feeling cauliflower is the vegetable on 2015. I enjoyed this dish but didn’t love it, the smoked yoghurt was what enticed me, but I didn’t get enough of that flavour.
Lastly was the black pudding parfait ($15.50). Rich, decadent, described aptly as ‘meat Nutella’. It’s not for the faint hearted but I really highly recommend you give it a go, it’s beautifully smooth served with sweet brioche, and goes down perfectly with swirl of good wine, probably my favourite dish.
The plates are small but so are the prices, which is always OK in my books. It just goes to show that you can still offer up good food at a reasonable price.
Being a wine bar there is obviously a predominant focus on grog. A very carefully sought out list of around 70 wines showcases varieties from around the world. It seemed that each bottle had a unique story to tell, and sommelier Wiremu Andrews (ex-Rockpool) knew how to tell it.
Drinking an Italian variety of white I felt as thought I had been whisked right away to the hills in the European summer.
Along with the wine is a rotating beer on tap, small batch sake, vodka and gin. Coffee is also available too with their beautiful custom built machine. Wine can be bought by the bottle, glass or half glass.
I really liked the concept of half glasses as it gives you the opportunity to try a few different varieties without getting too merry. The wine prices are varied from low to high end, but overall affordable, so you have the option to spend big or little.
Smalls is definitely worth a try even if it’s just for one glass of wine and a nibble, it’s lovely food in a really easy going and un-pretentious space where everyone is welcome (except for children). Open 7 days from 3pm and weekends for lunch.