A small all-day cafe and wine bar winning locals over in the backstreets of Fitzroy.
In Italy or France, it's quite common for people to have a local they visit several times a week. In Melbourne, that loyalty is a little less prominent due to the city's wealth of cuisines and food choices.
But Napier Quarter is a neighbourhood eatery changing that for Fitzroy locals. Perched on the peaceful corner of Napier and Kerr Streets, it's a pleasant sanctuary for those not quite in the mood for the loud crowds that fill many of Johnston Street's eateries.
It's a morning-to-night operation at Napier Quarter — waking up as an espresso bar and morphing into a wine bar as the day proceeds. What remains constant is the quality of produce used in the dishes. The chefs masterfully pair combinations that are pretty hard to resist. The menu is ever-changing, but breakfast usually involves an eggs-on-toast dish, maybe paired with anchovies or some form of cheese. Otherwise there are pastries from Loafer Bread to munch on.
By noon, the bar food crawls out, including house-made pickles ($6), Mount Zero olives ($8), and charcuterie ($12 per 50 grams). Small and large dishes take over from there, which are both generous is size and flavour. You may find a house-made spelt spaghetti with, zucchini, ricotta, preserved lemon and mint ($23); this dish manages to be simple yet still abundant with flavour from the lemon and mint. The roasted snapper with green olive and lemon (market price) is another customer favourite — but again, not always available. Pair your main with a little veggie power or salad, maybe in the form of the overly substantial farro salad with pickled carrots, radish and black sesame ($16) and you'll be rolling out the door, shirt unbuttoned and all. Just know the menu is quite succinct, so come prepared to go along with the limited options and push your culinary boundaries.
A chalkboard hosting the wine list hovers over diners, which is made up of wines strictly deriving from Italy, Spain, France and Australia. Allpress Coffee is available too, made with a La Marzocco. And just to top things off, the space is stunning. It's perfectly petite (about 140 square metres all up) and filled with dark timber furniture and hanging lights, making it the ideal, intimate place to dive into a conversation that may take up your entire afternoon or evening.
Napier Quarter blends corner cafe with casual wine bar in a way that, in our opinion, isn't done often enough in Melbourne, and is well worth a visit if you live local or across town.
Images: Brook James.