1 Melrose St Sandringham, VIC 3191
|Opening hours||Mon-Tue 5pm-11pm, Wed-Sun noon-late|
|Features||Licensed, Bar, Accepts bookings|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9052 4499|
The line between bar and restaurant has become so blurred it's sometimes difficult to define where one ends and the other begins. Take Baia Di Vino, a new wine bar sitting across the road from the beach in Sandringham, for example.
For starters, the name means "bay of wine", immediately promising thirsty wine drinkers safe harbour. Then there's the casual look of the place: Melbourne bayside by way of the kind of terrazzo-floored Italian bar you'd imagine yourself stumbling across on the Amalfi coast, all naked tables, sea views and marble-topped central bar.
Baia Di Vino adds to its bar credentials with a generous number of wines by the glass, a cocktail list and drink-ready salty snacks such as fried olives stuffed with veal mince or butterflied sardines that are crumbed, pan-fried to a glistening golden brown and served with a feisty eggplant caponata.
Look a little further down the menu, though, and you'll find more committed dining options: pork belly, roasted in the wood-fired oven, prawn-stuffed ravioli, a steak, a whole fish. It's at this point that it's best to abandon labels, embrace fluidity and make your own adventure, be it glass of wine or full feast. Baia Di Vino's up to the challenge.
The wine list is a smartly assembled collection of mostly classically made wines at fair prices. There's good variety by the glass including an excellent 2016 pinot noir from Hurley Vineyard on the Mornington Peninsula, a classic palest pink Provencal rosé and an elegant minerally pecorino, a white grape from Le Marche.
Baia Di Vino is currently waiting on a retail licence. Clearing that administrative hurdle will add another layer to the mix in the form of an enoteca-style bottle shop where you can drink in or take away.
The drinks list has a solid list of aperitivi and, for those chasing a cocktail, a short offering of original drinks, some more successful than others.
The Basilico is gin-based, flavoured and coloured a medicinal green by fresh basil leaves and then sweetened with sugar and given a kick of lemon juice. It's a good idea but sweeter than it needs to be, as if it can't quite commit to its more savoury (and refreshing) basil notes. It should.
There's a similar sweetness issue with the Blur-berry, an intriguing mix of vodka, sugar syrup, lemon juice, Chambord and blueberries that's topped off with a slug of pinot noir. Colour-wise, it's on song, pretty with blues and purples but the flavours don't really mesh, like they've turned up to the wrong party and are trying to make the best of an uncomfortable situation.
Flexibility is key to how we like to eat and drink in Melbourne right now and Baia Di Vino got the memo. It's a good-natured, well-run place with excellent sound levels, attentive staff and enthusiastic locals crowding the bar. It'll show you a good time. Just don't try to label it.
Martini Meter 3/5
Entry-level gin here is Bombay Sapphire but there's good artisanal stuff if you want to upgrade. Does the trick without being too finessed, $20.
Go-to bar snack
Crumbed and pan-fried sardines are hard to pass up, especially when teamed with an effective, but not overpowering, eggplant caponata, $14.