SINCE the 1990s when he opened Cafe Segovia in Block Place (one of the first places in Melbourne's CBD to serve wine by the glass), Con Christopoulos has demonstrated a talent for creating atmospheric, influential places to imbibe.
Degraves Espresso, Syracuse, European, Melbourne Supper Club, Benito's, Gills Diner, City Wine Shop, Self Preservation and Siglo are among the impressive line-up of ventures by which he and his numerous partners have defined the way we drink and eat in Melbourne's now full-to-bursting nooks and crannies.
Now, Neapoli has been tossed into that mix and, by blending new moves with familiar Christopoulos tropes, it's making for another interesting chapter in the tale of What Con Did Next.
Neapoli occupies a lovely space under the Little Hero building in Russell Place, with a two-storey expanse of black steel-framed windows that curve, deco-like, around one corner being the most obvious design flourish and one that bathes the place with plenty of natural light.
Downstairs, there is a '70s-influenced wooden bar that acts as both communal table and service area, curving down on one end to meet the white terrazzo floor. There are fixed, wide-seated bar stools both around the bar and at the timber window bench that hugs the curving glass wall.
The mezzanine has a boardroom-like communal table with leather chairs and a wood-panelled backdrop, with smaller tables and colourful chairs laid out on multicoloured carpet squares.
With all the light and open space, and a fitout that references the '30s, '50s and '70s, Neapoli feels like a departure from the old Euro moves that usually signpost a Christopoulos venture.
Still, with a bar-cafe-bottleshop blueprint and a flexible approach obviously modelled on continental bars, there is plenty of family resemblance at play, too.
Wine is the main focus of the Neapoli drinks list and there is a generous selection available by the glass. The beer list sticks mainly with boutique brewers and there's a small list of classic cocktails that offers something for morning, lunchtime, after work and late night.
Manager Daniel Willett says the Tanqueray 10 Martini with a grapefruit twist that sums up what they do best. "As a classic, it's hard to beat."
Tanqueray 10 Martini
3 parts Tanqueray 10 gin
1 part Dolin dry vermouth
1 grapefruit twist
Stir the ingredients over ice (preferably one large ice block to minimise melting) for one minute before straining into a martini glass and garnishing with the grapefruit twist. Serves 1.
Source: Epicure, August 21, 2012