Tiny but mighty wine bar Pencilmark opens with chef pedigree in Ballarat

Pencilmark Wine Room in Ballarat has just opened on the former site of hatted Ballarat restaurant Underbar, with a ...
Pencilmark Wine Room in Ballarat has just opened on the former site of hatted Ballarat restaurant Underbar, with a completely new look. Photo: Travis Price

Ballarat's premier fine-dining address has become the city's hottest spot for wine and snacks, with the opening last week of the 20-seat Pencilmark Wine Room on the original Underbar site.

Underbar co-owner and chef Derek Boath is moving his hatted restaurant to the forthcoming Hotel Vera and has teamed up with buddy Anthony Schuurs to open Pencilmark in its place.

"We've designed the wine bar of our dreams, basically," says Boath. "We put up the food we want to eat, the wines we want to drink and the music we want to listen to."

Co-owner Derek Boath says the wine bar is the type of place he'd like to visit on nights off.
Co-owner Derek Boath says the wine bar is the type of place he'd like to visit on nights off.  Photo: Neil Caguicla

To a soundtrack of James Brown, Aeroplane and more, guests can browse 140 wines selected by Schuurs, ranging from emerging Aussie labels to small allocations of French and Italian, with about 20 available by the glass. Bottles fill an entire custom-built shelf opposite Underbar's large communal table, which remains in the space.

Splashes of orange, pink, yellow and black have transformed the interior, and a series of large artworks on one wall by local illustrator Travis Price will change with the seasons, part of Boath's ambitions to showcase local art.

A 27-month-aged prosciutto from Ballarat's Salt Kitchen Charcuterie will sit on the marble bar, at the ready for platters also featuring Sher Wagyu bresaola.

Exclusive charcuterie and chef-made preserved fish from Spain are among the snacks on offer.
Exclusive charcuterie and chef-made preserved fish from Spain are among the snacks on offer. Photo: Travis Price

Gueyu Mar conservas (preserved fish) from Spanish chef Abel Alvarez are another hard-to-find item featured. Expect squid in its ink, razor clams and octopus, all chargrilled before being sealed in tins. Baguette and focaccia from nearby 1816 Bakehouse will complement these, and there will be local and imported cheese.

Boath is excited to be opening a more accessible spot for locals keen on food and wine. "The consensus in town is that no one likes to go out on Sunday, Monday and Tuesday. But being here six years, it's not that people don't want to go out; all our hospo friends go into the city because there's nowhere open here."

Bottles of wine are priced for takeaway, with 25 per cent corkage added for those drinking in.

Underbar chef Derek Boath (centre) is behind the new venture, along with sommelier Anthony Schuurs (left). Illustrator ...
Underbar chef Derek Boath (centre) is behind the new venture, along with sommelier Anthony Schuurs (left). Illustrator Travis Price (right) has painted a series of large paintings for the venue. Photo: Neil Caguicla

Underbar is due to open by September in new boutique accommodation Hotel Vera, with Boath also overseeing hotel breakfast.

Open daily 4pm-late.

3 Doveton Street North, Ballarat, Instagram @pencilmarkwineroom