44 Chapel Street Windsor, Victoria 3181
|Opening hours||Tue-Thu 5pm-11pm; Fri-Sat 5pm-1am; Sun 3pm-9pm|
|Prices||Cheap (mains under $20)|
|Phone||03 9510 4128|
Has the bubble finally burst on Smith Street? The announcement that one of its new-wave trail blazers, Huxtable, is closing had a few people griping on social media that the hip strip was officially over, ruined by rising rents and mainstream traders (hello, Subway).
Perhaps the haters should head south side, because the Windsor end of Chapel Street recalls Smith Street in 2010 at the moment – grungy but gentrifying, bohemian and buzzing. The Asian-ish diners Hawker Hall, Tokyo Tina and Mr Miyagi have formed a Bermuda Triangle of venues rammed with SnapChatting studs out with a vengeance and a credit card.
Joining the fray is the genteel Lady Nelson's, which is in stark contrast to the fluoro-lit fast-food stores California Burgers and Curry Munchie next door. Until recently it was called Kid Boston, but it's been given a good spruce by new owners Kat and Rick Nelson, who have lifted the narrow space with cheerful details such as an architectural wine rack high along the wall. They've warmed up the lighting, added some wooden booths, and soul music drifts into a private rear courtyard paved in plastic tiles.
Perhaps there are more blinging fitouts around, but what makes this place shine is the Lady herself, Kat. She's a dynamo on the floor, knows the wine list intimately and seems to have personal chats with every table.
First and foremost this is a wine bar, with over 40 wines by the glass, and many are under $10, which is a bit of a rarity these days. A blackboard features the top 10 highlights from a longer list: a glass of Croser sparkling, perhaps, a Haha pinot noir from New Zealand, or a fresh William Fevre chablis.
There are several off-the-menu gems, like a rare marzemino from the King Valley, and some interesting wines from Italy and South Africa, including a ripe chenin blanc from the Winery of Good Hope in Stellenbosch.
A handful of cocktails are well done, too. Kat prides herself on making one of the best espresso martinis around, and her tart, citrussy Casino is an old-fashioned delight garnished with a glace cherry; gin and cointreau and bitter lemon, which tastes like a melted lemonade icy pole.
The open kitchen takes up one end of the bar and they're into balls: beef, chicken or potato spheres doused in different sauces. Or there's Rick's charred discs of chorizo with a paprika and cider glaze, or moreish, bite-sized cubes of haloumi, pan-fried with a sweet, sticky drizzle of golden fig syrup. And don't forget the party pies.
The best place to sit? Grab one of the high tables on the footpath out the front, and watch Windsor having its moment – until, of course, the bubble bursts. There's no better place to enjoy the view.
Eat this Haloumi with fig syrup and lime, $6.50.
Drink this Casino cocktail, $17.
Know this You can hire the whole place for a private function.
Say this "Has Hawker Hall texted us back yet?"