Preaching the 'comfort food to share' angle, Ripponlea Food & Wine may be underselling itself a little. Breakfast panna cotta (vanilla bean yoghurt with summer berries and a toffee nut wedge — for breakfast!), kataifi king prawns with apple slaw and chipotle aioli and the tuna tartare (with spiced avocado and gazpacho, no less) are all good examples of this new cafe, restaurant and wine bar doing much more than what's traditionally considered 'comfort food'.
Breakfast starts with the birds at 7am and sits in that perfectly balanced space between basic and fancy-pants. If the Staple Store gluten free Bircher muesli with poached pear and walnut crumble ($10.50) doesn't tempt you, you might prefer the potato rosti with smashed avocado, maple glazed bacon and poached eggs ($16).
Later in the day the short-but-punchy cocktail menu comes out, as does the well-considered wine list, which includes a full-flavoured Te Mata Gamay Noir red served chilled ($43 bottle) — perfect for a bright autumn evening. Mei's Fury cocktail has also created quite a buzz, but it is not for the faint-hearted (and features house-infused jalapeno tequila).
The lunch/dinner menu features flavours that span the continents. The wasabi squid, wagyu burger with fries and chipotle dip and potato and rosemary salt flatbread sit on the same page in harmony, while a Cherry Ripe ice cream sandwich ($14.90) for dessert brings it all back home.
The space feels intimate without being squeezy, and the decor is modern rustic (if there can be such a contradiction). Exposed brick, communal tables and large windows with beautiful gold lettering makes this place feel sophisticated, yet down-to-earth and extremely inviting. It's the sort of place you imagine could fit within the New York scene — if the location opposite Ripponlea station and its leafy surrounds wasn't a key part of RF&W's overall success.
It's still early days, but the signs are good. Welcoming and attentive staff, comprehensive menu options and well executed food and drinks make RF&W worth a visit, even if you have to cross town to get there.
But let me guess — I had you convinced at breakfast panna cotta?