A new Smith Street small bar with a well-selected wine list and a Parisian aperitif-style menu.
There's a moral dilemma involved in writing about a great new place. On one hand, people deserve to know about it — but on the other, this might make it harder to get a seat.
Graham Hill and Georgina Russell have turned the former Storm in a Teacup space into an intimate wine bar, and in doing so, have created a little portal between Collingwood and Paris; stepping off Smith Street and into Smithward is like escaping somewhere down Rue de Buci or maybe Rue Mouffetard.
Inspired by a memory of a bar the couple loved in London, the space revels in its pared back, mismatched style and 17 seats. Choose between imbibing in the duskiness down the back, at a small marble table along the side wall or channel your inner Parisian and perch on the window ledge stools and watch the world go by.
Two details stand out in the decor of Smithward: the blue tile-lined counter and the two large 'portraits' of Edgar and Wilbur, the budgerigars, who also appear on the coasters and wine glasses. Sensing a theme here? Ask Graham about it and he might just roll up his sleeve and show you his budgerigar tattoo, gifted because his wife has a fear of birds and this is as close as he'll get to the real thing.
The succinct menu features charcuterie sliced to order and a cheese selection put together by Harper and Blohm and served with crusty house sourdough baguette, which is made by Graham every afternoon with the sourdough starter he created back in April. Think aperitif rather than dinner. Although, if you were to graze your way through the selection of three cheeses and three meats, try the Anchoa Atocha, a combo of salted crisps with white anchovies, or immerse yourself in the cheesiest of all cheesy delights: the raclette. Melted to order and deftly scraped straight from the wheel to then blanket boiled potatoes and little spear-like cornichons, eating raclette is a little like eating a fondue in reverse.
As for the wine part of the wine bar, it's slim but quality pickings: three whites, three reds, a rosé and a sparkling. There is one beer on tap, with seasonal varieties from local brewer Wolf of the Willows taking centre stage. For those evenings that require a little more fortifying, there's a Negroni and a Victorian martini, which features Maidenii vermouth and locally produced Four Pillars gin.
So, for a little bit of Frenchiness in heartland Collingwood, get along to Smithward. Just don't tell everyone about it. Please.