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bbbbbbKaaren Palmer — Champagne Editor

Melbourne by the glass Champagne walk
Kaaren Palmer
This walk was taken on Wednesday 15 June 2011

The first thing we learn is that 3.00 pm is too early to start, and nor is there much buzz about unless the venue is right on the street (like Spring Street Wine Bar next to The European and Siglo, 159 — 161 Spring St.). The first three bars we looked at were closed — not open til four, and barred fast shut.

Comme, 7 Alfred Place, Melbourne Tel 03 9631 4000 has Laurent–Perrier NV by the glass and a more than decent list of champagnes by the bottle. They like the association of Champagne Devaux with the local Yarrabank, and that would be worth exploring for a group. But there were only 3 of us, and recent tastings of Laurent–Perrier have left us with the impression that the current batch is a little unnerved by long travel from France, and will drink with much more balance in a few months’ time, after it has overcome its home–sickness. Comme do have some good half–bottles. Nevertheless, we depart the spacious, sparsely populated cool interior of Comme and continue to a bar already featured on Galaxy Guides…

The Collins Quarter, 86A Collins Street,Melbourne. Always welcoming, the friendly barman informs us that Taittinger NV can be poured for a mere $15. Glassware perfect, and the champagne responds accordingly. Moreover, we’re told, a weekly Wednesday piggy is cooking on the spit in the courtyard, becoming ready for later consumption. For its bottled champagne, The Collins Quarter likes Taittinger, and features Comtes de Champagne 1999 ($460), Prelude ($255), Rosé ($280), Recolte 2004 ($215). Dom, Billecart, Bollinger and Perrier–Jouët list at modest mark–ups (e.g., Dom Pérignon 2000 $270).

Thence, round the block to The Tuscan Bar at 79 Bourke Street, (no champagne by the glass despite the attractions of dark polished wood, chandeliers, wonderfully ornate cornices, and upstairs a rood garden full of light and warmth on a sunny late afternoon), and across the road to Van Haus at 1 Crossley St (Jacquesson 734 $125, but nothing by the glass in this quirkily attractive little place).

Down the same little street on the other side at 11/25, Becco is quiet at 4.20 pm but bar snacks and a freshly opened Louis Roederer ($25) add to our conviviality. It’s $4.50 for a freshly shucked oyster, $22 for chili dusted calamari, and Kev’s favourite — perfect, thin, hot, fresh French fries ($7.50) with house tomato sauce and smooth very garlicky aioli. Service is friendly and attentive. Their champagne list includes Delamotte (NV $90), and the delicious Billecart rosé champagne ($145, a bargain).

Just next door, 27/29 Crossley Street, Gingerboy is preparing to open for the evening. Upstairs, their bar is ready. But they are not ready to pour from the bottle into our glasses, depriving us of the magic of the theatre of champagne. Nor are they prepared to use properly prepared glasses. While a generous serve, the mousse is very disappointing, and the bouquet flat and one dimensional. It’s too gloomily lit to assess the colour, and the palate is disappointing. What a shame it is for a wonderful Champagne House like Jacquesson to have their champagne served like this. We are told that, had we ordered a bottle, we would have been given “proper glasses”. Best to avoid this place and leave it to the cocktail crowd.

above top…Siglo and bottom…the wonderfully opulent leather and wood Melbourne Supper Club

It’s time to return to Spring Street, to Siglo just above the wonderfully opulent leather and wood Melbourne Supper Club 161 Spring St (Tue–Fri 5pm–3am, Sat–Mon 8pm–3am). Pricing matches the first floor opulence (Krug 1996 Clos d’Ambonnay $8,082 – but where else can such a wine be purchased in Australia?) but we settle on the roof–top where it is too dark to see our glass of Vertus 02–03–04 blend, partially vinified in oak, Champagne Doyard Vendémiaire Brut. It’s a truly delicious Blanc de Blancs — elegant, poised, balanced. Despite the heaters, it’s a chilly night. The Spring St Wine Room is packed for a special red tasting, but usually this is a great place to more than one style of champagne by the glass, and often a chance to try a Cuvée de Prestige. We have spent many an afternoon there, and they always seem to be open.

Society at 23 Bourke have an Aubrey Beardsley inspired upstairs bar, but there’s nobody serving Pol Roger NV ($22) so we head back to finish in the warmth, friendliness and professionalism of The Collins Quarter. The men buy red wine (current vintage Olivers Tauranga shiraz $50), and I have a glass of Taittinge … again. The pig on the spit has long been devoured, but a wood fire, Hervey Bay prawns ($15), fontina and ham croquettes (3 for $9), delectable charcuterie with sour dough ($7 – $10 depending on the choice), mini Wagyu burgers ($9 each) and warm green salad ($12) nourish us.

P.S. Furry Meatball Pty Ltd are the licensees of the Carlton Club, where there is no champagne by the glass.

left…the street art of the Melbourne lane precinct

Copyright text and images © www.galaxyguides.com 2011 and Kaaren Palmer 2011

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above…Federation Square in the heart of Melbourne and just across the road from the lanes and some fantastic street art.

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