Stepping through the door at Wine 1160 is like coming home. Well, the ideal home, perhaps — one with cosy brick walls, wooden furniture, a lovely rear courtyard and (most importantly) shelf upon shelf of beautiful wine.
Technically this is a wine bar, but somehow that categorisation just doesn't quite do it justice. It is certainly a great wine bar (for want of a more sophisticated description) and sets a defining standard for venues wanting to call themselves thus. But what makes a great wine bar, you ask? For me, the key factors are, a) a compelling wine list featuring wines from off the beaten track with a bit of a story attached to them, b) beautiful glasses to drink it from, c) good quality food to nibble on while you quaff, and, lastly, d) knowledgeable staff with excellent service. Along with a relaxed, convivial ambience, Wine 1160 has all these in spades.
Owner Prabir Majumdar, a political advisor who, after visiting 25 countries through his work has settled down in Melbourne, has worked with wine consultant Joshua Elias to curate the ever-evolving wine list. It's a big list but it's not pretentious and Prabir and his staff are more than happy to make suggestions and chat about the vineyard, the winemaker, the flavours and any other anecdotes that fit.
In fact, both the staff and the space will convince you the only thing you need for dinner — or, for that matter, life — is a glass of wine and a little something tasty to go with it. Which isn't to downplay the food at Wine 1160; the menu from head chef Jasmin Lefers complements the wine perfectly, as is the intention. While restaurants pair the wine with their food, here, the wine offering comes first, food second. The menu has been created by picking out the flavours and high notes of the wines sold by the glass and then weaving the dishes around them.
As such, the emphasis is on small plates. The dishes are Mediterranean tapas-style, with the addition of some Indian spices, offering a nod to owner Prabir's Indian heritage. Embark on an adventure with a plate of charcuterie ($22) — the prosciutto comes from Italy while air-dried bresaola is made by a family in Lara. It's best accompanied by a rich and nutty barrel-aged Quinta do Noval Tawny Port ($12.50 glass). Or sip a glass of Champagne and revel in the pairing with popcorn and Gruyère salt ($7.50).
Another match made in food heaven — or at least somewhere hovering in the space above the south of France and Central Otago — is the pissaladière with its kalamata olives and white anchovies on a pizza-like base ($14) and a glass of Earth's End Pinot Noir ($12). It's a stellar example of how Wine 1160 marry food and wine to create something special, even if you're just dropping in for a snack on your way home.