46 Hardware Ln Melbourne, VIC 3000
|Opening hours||Mon-Fri 7.30am-11pm; Sat-Sun 9am-11pm|
|Features||Bar, Breakfast-brunch, Business lunch, Gluten-free options, Groups, Licensed, Lunch specials, Long lunch, Outdoor seating, Private dining, Vegetarian friendly, Views|
|Prices||Moderate (mains $20-$40)|
|Chef||Sukhdeep Singh, Ian Curley|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9600 4550|
The city's Hardware Lane has become something of tourist trap in recent years, but Kirk's Wine Bar, perched on the corner, provides welcome respite from the breathless touts vying for passers-by.
Part of the European Group's stable, and managed and co-owned by Ian Curley, the group's executive chef, it's a little bit of the "Paris end" come to this previously under-served part of the CBD. Anything west of Elizabeth Street has traditionally been a desolate place on weekends, but it's slowly becoming more civilised.
"I like it up there," Curley says. "In fact, I want to buy something else up that end. Five years ago it was dead but now, there's more people in the city, you've got the Emporium which is down that end. It's getting better."
Initially Curley's idea was to open a wine bar with Parisian-style outdoor tables in the small-but-stylish space, but it quickly evolved into something more, opening from early morning til late at night.
"It ticks along all day and people seem to have got it right away; the fact that it's small plates and not really a restaurant," Curley says.
Like the European though, the menu and the vibe is Euro-centric, a little bit French without alienating anyone.
"I'd call it tongue-in-cheek European," Curley says. "I mean, we've got muesli on there and nut bread with smashed avocado – I think the French would look on that with horror."
Not Melburnians though, where smashed avo is sacrosanct.
It does seem a bit of a token addition next to more sophisticated breakfast options like a properly done classic croque monsieur (or madame) with ham hock, bechamel, mustard and gruyere ($16.50/$17.50), sauteed mushrooms with bruschetta, poached egg and prosciutto ($16), a changing omelette of the day ($17.50), huevos madrilenos (baked eggs with black pudding and chorizo; $18.50) and the chunky house-made bacon with baked beans and poached eggs ($17.50).
And yet: "The house-made nut bread with poached eggs and avocado is one of the biggest sellers," Curley says. "We can't not have it on there."
Thankfully it's a tie in popularity with the delicately house-cured Petuna salmon served on a crisp potato blini topped with a sunny-side-up egg ($19.50).
Even with the smashed avo, Kirk's (named for the former Kirk's Bazaar Hotel, one of the city's earliest pubs which once stood on the site), has brought some sophistication to Hardware Lane.
"You can get a good sandwich on the street, but there's not much quality along there," Curley says. "I don't know people survive doing that creperie stuff. We only want to serve quality, from the wine, to the meats and salmon we do ourselves, and the fresh juices and coffee."
Plans are afoot to expand soon into the next door space and Curley is on the lookout for another 'west end' space to explore. Good news for the former Kabul end of the CBD.