The House of Wine and Food Restaurant Making A Mark in Port Melbourne
The House of Wine and Food is a distinctive foodie destination in Melbourne. How many restaurants can actually claim that? Often there can be a sameness about Melbourne dining experiences - many cafe menus are mirrors of each other and even restaurants serving up similar dishes. But for the discerning diner, The House of Wine and Food is a unique and exciting dining experience in Melbourne bringing French, Italian and Mediterranean classics and compelling bar and dining spaces.
Here at The House of Wine and Food (unpretentious name) there is a passion for the classic dining experience. The days when chefs took their time to cook a single dish for several hours from start to finish. Of course European cooking has such a heritage - some of the classic European regional dishes were poured over for hours by rural folk as the dish built to a crescendo. This craft is often lost in an age of assembly lines and chefs showcasing fresh produce without much cooking involved.
Bring back classic cooking. The iconic Cricketers Arms Hotel in Port Melbourne has been given new life by well-known Melbourne hoteliers Deborah and Alan Giles, who have renamed the venue The House of Wine and Food. Nestled in a quiet residential street in one of the most sought-after locations in the city, the historic pub has been given a modern makeover, while retaining the historic charm for which it is known and loved. Its focus is on fine wines and beer served with delicious platters or traditionally prepared French and Italian cuisine.
The venue offers a range of spaces including the warm, friendly front bar, where high quality wines are stored and served with snacks; the Victorian-style Private Library dining room, which suits intimate, small-group dining; a European style bistro; and a sheltered, year-round courtyard dining area for up to 100 people. We understand the courtyard was once a beer garden of the previous Cricketer's Arms Hotel - what a transformation!
We were gobsmacked with the fit out; the owners have treated this venue like it's their home with finery and attention to detail. All at once I was filled with French lamp envy, carpet envy, copper pot envy and art envy, amongst other things. I want these pieces for my own collection.
The bar is the place to begin you journey. “Our front bar is a cosy, safe place perfect for meeting friends for a drink after work,” Mr Giles said. “It is stylish and comfortable with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere.” Drinks can be accompanied by small platters of jamon, salumi, charcuterie, antipasto, cheese, olives, pates and oysters, which range in price from $12 to $30.
The Sommelier recommended the wine above, the Domaine d'Ourea from the appelations of the Gigondas and fashioned by winemaker Adrien Roustan. Adrien makes this wine from tiny yields, and it's 80% Grenache, 10% Syrah and 10% Cinsault. We were surprised at the elegance and the deep, brooding black fruits and compact structures.
The wine list includes a selection from Australia, France and Italy, with a large range by the glass. There are beers from Carlton, Coopers, Kronenburg and Peroni. The Sommelier is on his game - and anyone who knows their European wine regions well and the various estates in details, gets my vote.
Décor has been chosen to reflect the history of the building, which dates back to the 1870s, with a warm timber interior, antiques, a cosy bar and a courtyard designed to feel like a home garden.
“We deliberately avoided cutting-edge materials like glass, concrete and steel, and set about creating an evocative atmosphere which goes to the heart of hospitality, a feeling of coming together with family and friends in an extension of home,” Mr Giles said.
An experienced man with a brilliant perspective. The essence of hospitality is an extension of the home.
Antipasto Platter is a delight featuring jamon, salumi, terrine, marinated vegetables, cheese, fruits, olives, grissini and toast. We were also given a basket of bread with French butter.
The Giles’ bring more than 100 years hospitality experience between them, having worked in hospitality since the early 1960s. They spent 30 years running the Malvern Hotel and 25 years at the Turf Club Hotel, as well as time running The Albert Park, The Montague, The Beaumaris, The Sandringham and Arthurs Restaurant, plus several interstate hotels.
Chatting with Alan was a highlight of the evening - his passion knows no bounds. He told me at one stage he was running 15 hotels. He gave me the background to his famous Bouillabaisse - born out of an encounter with Marseilles fishermen in the 1960s. This is a dish that takes days to prepare, with a complex broth and a bowl of delightful seafood - and is available on weekends. While the Bouillabaisse has had much attention the rest of the menu speaks for itself.
The couple took over the Cricketers Arms last year after emerging from a brief and “boring” retirement. The “hands-on” hospitality operators live and work on the premises, cooking the food and overlooking all aspects of its operation.
A classic Coq Au Vin was a magnificent dish; rich and rustic, perfectly cooked chicken, and perfect for a winters night. The dish of the night, Coq Au Vin is a classic French chicken casserole with red wine, onions and mushrooms, herbs, parsley and potatoes.
We are glad Alan and Debbie are back in hospitality! “Having been involved in the food and liquor business all of our working lives, we found our retirement was very boring,” Mr Giles said. “The old Cricketers Arms Hotel had the right structure and location for the sort of business that we wanted to create. While the structure is the same, the décor has been completely renewed.”
Our next main dish was the Beef L'Orange. We are used to Duck L'Orange but this beef dish is an interesting variation. It was another enjoyable casserole style dish (with strong orange hit). The waiter insisted that we try this dish (although we couldn't find it on the menu or the specials board) as a pairing with our wine. Rich and rustic dining is a pleasure.
The Pie of the Day (Fish), Tuscan Roast Lamb, Scotch Fillet (300g), and Duck Cassoulet also caught our eye.
The House of Wine and Food focuses on a wide range of quality wines and interesting food, and is reflected in the name. “Because it is nestled in a lovely old street without any other commercial buildings and because our focus is on food and wine, we felt that it suited being called a ‘house’”,” he said.
Tiramisu was a wonderful dish with a delightful amount of cream.
The special of Mousse au Chocolat was a hit with chocolate flower, ice cream quenelle and vanilla bean cream. Decadent rich chocolate with refreshing flavoursome ice cream and vanilla hit of cream.
The winter menu features timeless, classical cuisine cooked using traditional French and Italian Classical methods from fresh high-quality ingredients, such as meat from Bouchiers, seafood from Clamms and vegetables from South Melbourne Market.
The House of Wine and Food is open Wednesday to Sunday from noon until late. It is closed for lunch on Saturdays, except by arrangement.
For bookings call (03) 9676 2004 or 0412 317 160 and for additional information see www.thehouseofwineandfood.com or https://www.instagram.com/thehouseofwineandfood and https://m.facebook.com/Houseofwineandfood or https://www.thehouseofwineandfood.com