Daylesford gets a cosy yet quality local in the form of Bar Merenda`

The new wine bar spotlights  local makers of wine and other produce, complemented by French and Italian bottles from the ...
The new wine bar spotlights local makers of wine and other produce, complemented by French and Italian bottles from the owners' collection. Photo: Emma Breheny

Eating and drinking well in Daylesford has never been a problem, but newcomer Bar Merenda offers an exceptional line-up of French, Italian and Victorian wines in a homely space that epitomises a local wine bar.

The project from couple Andy Ainsworth and Clare O'Flynn opens this week, combining O'Flynn's skills as a designer and illustrator and Ainsworth's time managing wine-centric venues, along with vegetables the pair grow on their plot at Stone Hills Farm and renowned produce sourced from the Daylesford region.

"The grand plan was to end up in the country and grow food ourselves, but it was always a 'one day' thing," says Ainsworth, who was general manager at Sydney's 10 William Street until July last year.

The pipe dream has been realised at Merenda (named for the Italian ritual of a mid-afternoon snack with wine), with the couple writing a short menu of seven or eight plates each day featuring vegetables picked that morning for dishes like sauteed spring greens with fresh cheese or radishes with taramasalata. Charcuterie comes from regenerative outfit Jonai Farms, terrine is made in-house with Jonai's pork or Milking Yard's spent hens and cheese is by local makers Holy Goat, Gippsland's Butterfly Factory or overseas producers.

"Neither of us are chefs, we've just worked in and around food for a decade. But the food we're making isn't particularly cheffy. It's simply wine bar food," says Ainsworth.

The wine list reflects Ainsworth's fascination with Beaujolais and Jura producers, but these are complemented by Piedmontese examples and local winemakers such as Joshua Cooper and Dilworth & Allain. The cellar includes harder-to-find bottles, including some Victorian vintages from the 1980s, while other drinks include Sailor's Grave beer, Pennyweight fortified wine, Maidenii vermouth and four classic cocktails.

Visitors can sit at the high timber bar or on mismatched tables and chairs dotted around the space that was previously a live music venue. Vintage crockery and cabinets full of wine bottles add warmth, as do illustrations and prints ranging from Cubist to old wine posters. Bar Merenda opens on November 18.

Open Thu 5pm-10pm, Fri 4pm-11pm, Sat 12.30pm-11pm, Sun 12.30pm-6pm

Shop 3, 22-24 Howe Street, Daylesford, @bar_merenda_daylesford