Grape Bar and Bottleshop

55 Salamanca Place, Hobart
03) 6224 0611
Open: Daily 10.30am to 11.30pm.

Grape has been around for a while now. But, except as a pleasant enough drop-in place for a drink or to pick up a bottle to take home, it’s never really taken off. Now, with some recent changes and on the strength of a mid-week visit the other week, it deserves to.

First, because there’s no other wine selection along the Salamanca strip that comes close to matching Grape’s. Second, because their enomatic wine dispenser allows you to taste, have half a glass or a full glass of an ever-changing range of top quality wines at very reasonable prices. Third, and most importantly, the food now is top notch in a small, well-balanced menu perfectly suited to a quick lunch, after-work snack or a leisurely evening dinner.

Four of us kicked off with a bottle of 2006 Chateau du Cedre Cahors, a malbec from south-west France, and some deep-fried white bait with lemon dill mayonnaise and a platter of cured meats accompanied by delicious pickled zucchini and an unusual but equally delicious pickled egg. The Cahors was chosen more because we wanted to try it rather than that it would match the food. As it turned out, with its mellow intensity and only 12.5 percent alcohol, it proved a very enjoyable drop and was fine with the food. But the waiter, the affable and attentive Felix Stoffell, must have read us and, seeing we were interested in something different, said “Finish that and I have a few temptations for you” . Never ones to resist, we ended up with a 1998 Langhe from the famous Barolo village of La Morra in Piedmont, Italy, at a price somewhat cheaper than the current release 2006 vintage of the same wine which was available from the enomatic.

As perfectly conditioned and enjoyable as the wines were, what really made the night was chef Peter Cooksley’s (ex-Piccalilly) food. A confit chicken Maryland, a beef cheek and mash on a deeply flavoured sauce, pumpkin gnocchi with thyme cream, pesto and toasted almonds and a meltingly tender pork belly with crisp crackling and star anise-flavoured pear chutney, while nothing new or upmarket, were simple, beautifully cooked and flavoured, elegantly presented and wonderfully satisfying. Combined with the excellent wines, the food was exactly the right blend for a winter’s night, under the umbrella heaters sharing the life and buzz of Salamanca.

Bruny Island oysters four different ways $15/$25; whitebait $11; meat platter $15.50; mains $16.50 to $18.50; desserts $10; Australian and imported cheese selection $16.50.

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