58 Wellington Parade East Melbourne, Victoria 3002
|Opening hours||Wed-Fri 4pm-late; Sat noon-late; Sun noon-9pm|
|Features||Licensed, Accepts bookings|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9416 0618|
In a food and booze-obsessed city like Melbourne, you'd think more attention might be paid to the sacred sites of the hospitality industry. If it was the case that we honoured the people and places that pushed boundaries - and sometimes the law - so that Melburnians could eat and drink like grown-ups, there'd be a plaque outside 58 Wellington Parade, East Melbourne, commemorating the site of the former Cafe Balzac. Opened by Georges and Mirka Mora in 1958, Balzac was the first place in Victoria to be granted a freshly minted restaurant licence and helped pave the way for how we eat and drink now.
Having Tippler & Co occupy the space is a fine alternative to a bronze plaque. The latest in a line of businesses to have followed Balzac, this flexible bar-diner honours its predecessors by understanding the way that we like to eat and drink. A relaxed, good-looking space, the three small downstairs rooms are a smart mix of terrazzo floors and timber panelling, with framed indigenous art on the walls and fresh flowers on the tables adding texture and personality. There are stools and high tables in one room, banquettes in another. Upstairs is a bigger room to catch the overflow on busy nights or when there's a game on at the nearby MCG.
The drinks lists are compact and well curated. There's a single page of cocktails that includes crowd-pleasers such as an espresso martini ($17) and house specials (the gin smash, $17.50, a double shot of Beefeater mixing it with strawberries, mint and cucumber).
Beers run to a page. There are usually five beers on tap plus a cider and the lean is towards local craft brewers, so you might get an excellent, hoppy Moon Dog "Love Tap" Double Lager ($6) or a Mountain Goat Steam Ale ($6). Bottled beers range further afield but you can still snag a VB, if that's your poison.
The wine list keeps to a couple of pages and is mindful of quality and price in equal measure, with good value local faves like 2012 Punt Road Pinot Noir ($9.50/$43) plus a few overseas labels such as a 2011 Dr Loosen Sonnenuhr Kabinett Riesling ($76).
A snack menu that runs the gamut from spiced roasted nuts ($5) and edamame ($5) to a rather good duck liver pâté ($6/$15) and sweet potato and kaffir lime arancini ($14) is available all day.
A longer, more substantial list with similarly wide-ranging influences (both Euro and Asian) is available during lunch and dinner hours and all day on Sundays.
Ideally located for pre-and post MCG imbibing, the Tippler has the appealing and inclusive feel that all local bar-diners strive for.
It's not trying anything too fancy but neither is it playing dumb. It aims for comfort and hospitality and it hits the mark. The ghosts of restaurants past would approve wholeheartedly.
Drink this Moon Dog "Love Tap" Double Lager ($6, 330ml)
Eat this Pea and smoked ham hock croquettes ($14)
Check this Go for ''Tipple Time'' (5-7pm every night, all day Sunday) for cut-price drink specials.