It's easier than ever to get an organic glass of wine with your charcuterie in Melbourne's east, as a clutch of wine bars open in what was once the epicentre of the city's temperance movement.
"Maybe people have actually seen an opportunity to go and do something, now that people are staying in their suburbs a bit more," says Kieran Hoop, who swapped a CBD gig for La Perla, which opened in a quiet pocket of Camberwell last week.
Watering holes in the eastern suburbs have been notoriously thin on the ground as a result of liquor licence restrictions that still exist in nearly a dozen suburbs.
Greenhart, serving sustainably produced wine and food on the eastern reaches of Toorak Road, was only able to open after residents were invited to vote for or against a new licensed premises in their neighbourhood.
But after "yes" won the day, the welcome from Hartwell locals has been warm, says co-owner and chef Miriam White.
The green, marble and timber interiors were mostly done by White and her business partners Heidi FitzGerald, a designer, and Lena Mendez, a caterer who previously ran nearby cafe Fordhams Milk Bar.
Across bar stools, tables and a sunny courtyard, the team serves mostly Victorian wines, from Jayden Ong, Bobar, Combes and others they have direct relationships with. Potato and gruyere tortilla, ricotta gnocchi with romesco sauce and charred cos and goat's cheese are on offer, with plans to add larger plates for those staying for dinner.
"We really want that sense of community where we know people's names and people get to know us as well," White says.
A short walk away, La Perla is helping locals loosen up one amaro at a time. Former Denton Wine Bar chef Kieran Hoop has opened the Italian-style local with Stefan Moon, starting out with quail saltimbocca and other small plates until their pizza oven is installed in the new year.
But Hoop will do more than cook pizza in the oven; expect rib-eye, garlic prawns and roasted veg to complement Victorian cheese and, soon, house-made salumi.
There are also plans for DJs to play in the second smaller kitchen that has a hutch overlooking the dining room; on Sundays they will set up in the courtyard while a pig roasts on a spit.
For now, the action happens in the 20-seat front room, with its timeless fitout of light timber floors, white plaster walls and exposed brick, plus a smaller room for 10 to the rear.
Wines are mostly Italian and are complemented by aperitifs, a solid cocktail list and espresso from Sow Coffee Project.
"There's not really a lot of places to get a drop [around here]," says Hoop. "It's been so surprising how nice all the locals have been. They've all been stopping in. I guess they're hanging out for it."
Oysters and other snacks at Albert's in Armadale. Photo: Kate Shanasy
Away from High Street's bustle, Albert's is proving to be a local's best friend as the venue rolled with the punches of 2021.
"We've gone from takeaway cafe to seated cafe and now a wine bar," says co-owner Doug Milledge. "It's actually transitioned beautifully and coincided with people coming out of lockdown."
With a deep footpath, large awnings and friendly neighbours, the venue (named after painter Albert Tucker, a former Armadale resident) spills onto the street, with people enjoying bagels and salads during the week, and plates of oysters with glasses of pet-nat from Friday to Sunday.
While a permanent liquor licence is reviewed by the council, the hybrid cafe-wine bar model will remain, but Milledge and his business partners, Toby Koffman and Alice Freer, hope to tighten the focus in the new year.
House-made dips, marinated olives and charcuterie round out things for drinkers, while the team bakes an impressive array of tarts, muffins and cakes daily.
Greenhart, 1226 Toorak Road, Camberwell, greenhart.com.au
La Perla, 625 Camberwell Road, Camberwell, laperla.com.au