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Published August 10th 2014
In a strange twist: BYO Food
You can see an example of the huge apartment developments through the front window of Oak & Steel
Once Melbourne's restaurant scene was all about BYO. A meal out at a nice little restaurant where you took a good bottle of wine from your home stash.
These days there is a tendency to buy wine by the glass and have a couple of glasses with your meal. This foils high corkage charges and most people find a couple of glasses of good wine sufficient for their needs.
The newly opened Oak & Steel Wine Bar in Windsor has changed the landscape yet again.
In a strange but logical twist on the old BYO they supply the wine but encourage you to BYO Food.
If you are into wine you might also enjoy reading about it while you are at Oak & Steel
It is a great concept because this small intimate wine bar is in the heart of Prahran's Flatlands - the vast apartment complexes taking up entire inner suburban blocks.
Residents don't want to sully brand new kitchens, nor do they feel like cooking after a hard day at work and so a number of local eateries have sprung up to meet their needs such as Hanoi Hannah, Charlie Dumpling and the well-known Huxtaburger.
Nor do people want to return to small apartments and look at four walls whilst eating their dinner and just like residents in the burbs they love the thought of eating out in the backyard on a summer's evening.
Oak & Steel Wine Bar meets all these needs. You can meander over there for a drink with friends. Share one of Oak & Steel's pre-dinner tasting platters and then later on grab one of the many take away menus, they keep on hand, and order some of the great takeaway cuisine from nearby restaurants.
The staff will give you expert advice on which wines will go with your desired meal.
You can get the food delivered to Oak & Steel while you continue socialising with friends.
You can even sit outside in their courtyard with it overhead heaters and its white magnolias soon to be bursting into bloom.
I was there in the afternoon when various wine merchants came in for a chat over some wine tasting. They met with the owners, Tim Bruce and David Yee (David's sister Kym is also involved in the business) and sat with them at the communal tables.
The guys were both obviously knowledgeable on their wines and weren't settling for common or generic wines.
Instead they seemed to choose individual wines that they know from their travels ones that they can truly recommend.
They plan to take their customers on a bit of journey around Australia. Presently they are showcasing Victorian wines but they will be changing their wine list every three months to concentrate on the other states. Their emphasis is on representing new wine makers.
Next stop will be South Australia.
Choices are not overly complicated as you are not daunted by a huge wine list. At any one time they have 17 wines on offer, four craft beers and a couple of ciders.
At present, for example, you could walk in and order a 2009 Stonier sparkling chardonnay pinot noir from Mornington, a 2012 Wood Park Chardonnay from the King Valley, a Port Phillip Estate 'Red Hill' pinot noir, a 2009 Patricia Noble Riesling and a dessert wine from Milawa. Beers choices include a 2 Brothers Taxi pilsener, Kooinda American Pale Ale, Hargreaves Hill ESB and a 3 Ravens Black. Ciders on offer include a Kelly Brothers Pear and a Henry of Harcourt Original Apple and fortunately none of that lolly flavoured Kopparberg which seems to be flooding the market.
I was fortunate enough to partake of one of their pre-dinner grazing plates of four cheeses including a King River gold washed rind (Milawa), a cheddar (Maffra Cheese co. Gippsland) as well as a brie and tarwin blue (both from Berry's Creek Gippsland.) These treasures were accompanied by poppyseed crackers, apple fruit paste, dried muscatels and a bowl of Mount Zero Olives. My favourite was the Berry's Creek brie which had a luscious creamy texture.
All cheeses came with accompanying tasting notes.
Tasting plates range from $10. My lavish tasting plate was $26 but could be shared by a few people.
David suggested a couple of wines that would pair well with the cheeses on my platter.
With his guidance I opted for a glass of Hanging Rock Jim Jim Sauvignon Blanc ($9.50 a glass). As David explained it is a wine with layers of complexity, powerful lifted floral and honey dew aroma and almost a tropical fruitiness. The 2012 Flynn's Mc Shiraz from Heathcote ($14 a glass) had a purple-crimson hue and was bold, dense and complex.
The wall feature a changing display of art work. While prices aren't on display ( that would quite destroy the sleek look) all artworks are for sale. The display changes every five to six weeks. Tim Bruce has owned a couple of galleries including Edmund Pearce Gallery and Carbon Black which was previously in the same location as the Oak & Steel Wine Bar.
During daylight hours Tim's son, Dylan Alexander, runs the coffee arm of the business called Soldier On. This operates until 4pm each day.
There is a story behind the name. Originally Dylan thought that people would come in on their way to work and order takeaway and soldier on, as they traipsed off to work. But instead they like to sit and enjoy their coffee.
There is no kitchen but some good food that Dylan organises through Windsor Deli and Empire Bakery.
At present Dylan is getting creative and basing some of the food on the name Soldier On. There will be sandwiches cut into bite size soldiers for example.
As with the first class wines at night this is a serious coffee place during the day. Dylan, while only 23, has already served his barrista's apprenticeship at the Artful Dodger over four years. He is also the owner of Beats and Beans in Flinders Lane CBD and has managed School of 7 Bells on Chapel street.
So as you can imagine the coffee is exceptional and includes blends by some of Melbourne's best coffee roasters.
Their present house white blend is 'Penny Box' by Artful Dodger, house black Dark Horse by 5 Senses, and they rotate their single origins and filters every couple of days from places such as Industry Beans, Proud Mary, Monk.
This coffee shop is another great example of why Melbourne has the best coffee in the world.
Like the wine I am asked what I want for my coffee hit and am given a perfect coffee with shades of caramel and chocolate.
The coffee here is a dedicated art form. Source: Tim Bruce's Facebook
If you enjoy your coffee or wine you are probably going to travel across town for this place. But on the other hand it is great to see a community based drinking and social venue that is not a raucous pub and takes wine so incredibly seriously without being pretentious into the bargain. As the owners say: "we offer great swill without the pretence."
Why? For some beautiful wines to complement your BYO food
When:Soldier On, the daytime coffee shop, is open unti 4pm each day. Then seamlessly at 4pm then the wine bar opens from 4-11 from Wed to Sat and 4-9 on Sunday. There will also be extended hours during summer.
Phone:Ph. 0488 688 122
Where:188 High Street Windsor (just around the corner from Chapel Street)