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Where to Drink Good Wine in Melbourne After a Tough Day at Work

Establishments to cater to any post-work need (or crisis).
By Samantha Payne
October 04, 2017

Where to Drink Good Wine in Melbourne After a Tough Day at Work

Establishments to cater to any post-work need (or crisis).
By Samantha Payne
October 04, 2017


in partnership with

Establishments to cater to any post-work need (or crisis).

Melbourne knows how to strike the perfect work/life balance, and we've embraced the neighbourhood wine bar scene with open arms — and mouths — to prove it. Whether you're keen on the local chicken shop that serves up some of the most exciting minimal intervention wines coming out of Australia (perfect for that out-of-town client meeting), or looking for somewhere warm and inviting to take the office crush, there's no shortage of establishments to cater to any post-work need (or crisis).

We've done a quite a bit of eating and drinking through this great city of ours, so, along with American Express, we've pooled our knowledge for your benefit. In fact, we've sifted through our directory to pick out the best casual drinking spots to suit whatever you have planned. Just quit your job and need to toast with a good wine? Want to get a spreadsheet done over lunch? Need an excuse to use your American Express® Card? We know just the place.

Got yourself in another dining situation and need some guidance? Whatever it is, we know a place. Visit The Shortlist and we'll sort you out.

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    Kirk’s Wine Bar is filled with small, round timber tables, really only big enough to seat two. And, that’s fine with us. Honestly, who wants to share a bottle of wine with more than one other person? Nice thinking Kirk’s — you know your stuff.

    The wine selection has been carefully curated, including classics from Piedmont in Italy and Loire Valley in France. The best part? A spiralled staircase reveals a wine cellar with a 12-seater table, great for a large group of your close work colleagues. Tucked away from all the noise, you could probably spend hours down there nattering away. A CBD bunker filled with wine and imported cheeses is the perfect way to spend a weeknight, after all.

    Image: Brook James.

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    Heartattack and Vine is cool, comfy and serves cicchetti all night. Yep, good things may come in small packages, but finer things — aka, what the Italians call cicchetti — come served as tasty morsels on wooden boards. It’s one of H&V’s defining features, helping make it one of Lygon Street’s hippest spots.

    The bar emits an old-world charm with a polished with a retro edge; think lamps hanging above the bar from recycled window awnings, casting a warm glow over the venue that’s perfect for some post work-selfies. The wine list is equal parts trendy and classic, easily suiting the office secretary who only loves Sauvignon Blanc and also your co-worker who is a self-confessed ‘wine wanker’.

    Image: Brook James.

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    One of Andrew McConnell’s many venues, Cumulus Inc has been a Melbourne favourite since its opening in 2008. In 2013, it was joined by Cumulus Up — which, as its name suggests, is located above its predecessor.

    Cumulus Up could be mistaken for a waiting room for the main act downstairs, but its exposed brick and dark detail to give it a relaxed yet classy finish, just begging you to bypass the fanfare below and drink your way through a few after-work hours. The wine list is short, snappy and gets to the point, with 18 tipples to tickle your fancy. And, they’re all great drinking drops from around the globe that won’t cost you an arm and a leg.

    Image: Harvard Wang.

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    If you’re one of many Melburnians seeking out the best battered chook in the city, it’s hard to go past Belles Hot Chicken. Their sole focus is just that, after all. But, what to wash down all that juicy, tender chicken doused with the kick of heat that comes with their signature sauce?

    Chefs and co-owners Aaron Turner and Morgan McGlone, alongside Belle’s wine director Christian Robertson, have tracked down avant-garde wine gems from all across the world. Settle into one of the brown booths, order something juicy (both the wine and the chicken) and lose yourself within the music record player blaring in the background, forgetting all about the day you’ve had or the one you need to face tomorrow.

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    If you know one thing about Ugly Duckling, let it be this: the name is deceptive. With its contemporary design and attention to detail, it shares much more in common with the ‘beautiful swan’ part of the famous fairytale. All pastel tones, grey accents and smooth surfaces, the Richmond space is fresh and chic. A narrow front bar opens out into a bright, lofty atrium, where natural light spills onto intimate tables of after-work tipplers and date-night duos.

    Drinks-wise, the wine list is comprehensive and fairly wide-ranging, perfect for any style of after-work vino adventure. A decent range by the glass and half bottle offers a good excuse to sample a few different things, or erase the memory of a days’ worth of spreadsheets.

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    Head into Saint.Urban via the charming laneway entrance, and you’ll be greeted by a modern rendition of rustic charm. The space isn’t huge, but it’s been used to great effect — a central, horseshoe-shaped bar is the place to sip and be seen, while intimate corner tables are ideal date night stuff, or a place to take that office cutie you’ve been trying to charm during the week.

    It’s inherently warm, with a European-tinged elegance derived from the lightly distressed walls, a tiled floor and lots of polished timber curves. Well-travelled and fairly accessible, the wine list has an interesting range of bottles, as well as a varied selection by the glass. And, the half bottle option holds plenty of promise, particularly if you want to show off your wine knowledge to your co-workers.

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    Neatly tucked next to a car park and an Italian restaurant, Madame Brussels (or Madame B as those ‘in the know’ call it) is a Melbourne institution. Find the stairs in the back and ride the elevator up to level three, then take in the brilliantly executed kitschy theme as your eyes search for the bar.

    Where you choose to prop yourself is much like office politics — that is, where you sit is dependent upon what type of person you are. The curled iron chairs in the hedged bar suit those who appreciate the odd quirk (that co-worker who’s always showing you strange Japanese cat memes), while the white, wooden deckchairs out on Madame’s rooftop terraces are more suited to those looking to unwind with a view of the church steeples in the city’s east (like the cool kids who always get the best seats in the conference room).

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    Stepping through the door at Wine 1160 is like coming home. Well, the kind of home you go to after work before you end up at your real home. It has cosy brick walls, wooden furniture, a lovely rear courtyard and, most importantly, shelf upon shelf of beautiful wine. Yep, that’s everything that makes an outstanding wine hub.

    The list goes on. A compelling wine selection featuring vino from off the beaten track, all with a bit of a story attached? Check. Beautiful glasses to drink from? You bet. Good quality food to nibble on while you quaff? Air-dried bresaola made by a family in Lara takes care of that. And, lastly, knowledgeable staff with excellent service? They’ll do you one better and remember your name from the last time you drank there.

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    You’ll find Marion in the two-room space that housed Supernormal back in its pop-up days, and it’s a solid addition to Gertrude Street’s ever-growing hospitality scene. Inside the sophisticated space is a mix of Fitzroy’s hip, young things, grazing on charcuterie and showing off their grape knowledge, and more mature punters, quaffing interesting wines while they wait for their table next door.

    The drinks list compiled by Cutler and Co sommelier Liam O’Brien is an exhaustive compilation, with something for every palate and budget. It’s the perfect escape from work no matter what kind of day you’re having — you can drop by for a cheeky lunchtime aperitif, a couple of glasses of local wine or share your way through a bottle of something foreign if you’re needing a post-work recharge. Plus, serious wine buffs in your office will appreciate the commitment to the more interesting stuff, with less familiar grape varieties given plenty of list space.


    As you drink and dine with your American Express, reap all the sweet rewards of being a Card Member. Explore the many ways American Express has your back here.

    Top image: Brook James.

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