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Lilac Is the Mulberry Group's New Neighbourhood Wine Bar in a Lofty Cremorne Warehouse

Roll in for puffy wood-fired flatbread and chicken mousse eclairs paired with an interesting rotation of vinous treats.
By Libby Curran
February 14, 2023
By Libby Curran
February 14, 2023

He's had a huge hand in shaping Melbourne's cafe scene over the years, responsible for the original iterations of such gems as Three Bags Full, Top Paddock and Higher Ground. But if the likes of Hazel and Dessous are anything to go by, Nathan Toleman and his team have a knack for creating winning drinking destinations and dinner spots, too. And their latest project fits neatly into this latter camp, a sure-fire smash hit for sips, snacks and lazy feasts alike.

The Mulberry Group has moved beyond the city grid for its new wine bar Lilac, taking over a converted warehouse in Cremorne's industrial heart, just opposite the site the group's own Square One Coffee Roasters calls home.

Inside, Lilac's concrete and steel bones remain, softened and warmed with the help of mellow lighting and a snug corner fireplace. It's lofty and open, yet full of character.

Playing to the same relaxed approach of the space itself, Lilac's oft-changing food offering doesn't zero its focus too heavily on any one genre — rather, it pulls together a melange of Aussie nostalgia, Euro sensibilities and French bistro flair.

Group Head Chef Kyle Nicol (Rascal, Supernormal) is in the driver's seat here, and you'll find plenty of his own foraged ingredients and aged meats on the menu, heroed alongside wood-fired dishes and house-fermented goodies galore. It's crafty and creative, with a warm, generous edge.

An instant hit has emerged in the two-bite chicken mousse eclairs with black garlic glaze, while other highlights in the smalls department might include delicate slices of beef heart paired with dandelion greens and white sauce, savoury mince toasts, and curds finished with fermented honey. Be sure to spread some of the latter onto the puffy wood-fired flatbread that everyone's been raving about.

The house charcuterie is a standout, as are the rolls of lamb belly elevated with silky carrot butter, and the rum baba reimagined with pineapple and gum custard.

The matching wine list proves just as exciting, especially if your drop of choice is of the organic and biodynamic variety. Trend-bucking small-scale producers get plenty of airtime here, though quality always reigns supreme throughout. And you'll find a solid spread of sake, spirits and craft beer to round it out — all up, leaning overwhelmingly local.

Find Lilac Wine at 31 Stephenson Street, Cremorne. It's open from 4pm–late Wednesday and Thursday, 12pm–late Friday and Saturday, and 11am–5pm Sunday.

Images: John Benedict Ryan.

Published on February 14, 2023 by Libby Curran
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