274-276 Coventry St South Melbourne, VIC 3205
|Opening hours||Mon-Wed & Sat 10am-7pm; Thu-Fri 10am-8pm; Sun 10am-6pm|
|Features||Licensed, Outdoor seating|
|Payments||eftpos, AMEX, Visa, Mastercard|
|Phone||03 9696 3185|
Discussions about Melbourne's enviable Italian dining scene almost always centre on food. But there's a distinct Italian accent to the way we consume wine, too, most obviously in the enoteca-style bar-bottle shops that have been colonising the city for more than a decade.
Pioneered by the likes of City Wine Shop and Gertrude Street Enoteca, the style has become an integral part of Melbourne's mosaic. South Melbourne's Magnum + Queens has just added another tile.
Magnum + Queens started life as an online bottle shop. Last year it added a bricks-and-mortar retail store on Coventry Street to the mix and is now also operating as a fully fledged wine bar.
It's one of those smooth, minimalist spaces that make you feel several degrees calmer and more sophisticated than you were before walking in.
Being surrounded by smartly designed shelves stacked with conscientiously selected wine helps. But it's also there in the black and grey-green colour scheme, the timber floors, shiny happy plants in concrete pots and the oversized flower arrangement on the central communal table/counter that's surrounded by black metal stools with upholstered seats and well-placed footrests. There's a refreshing lack of clutter and the lighting is flattering, even from the wine fridges, which are traditionally cruel.
Service is low-key, knowledgeable and friendly, the kind where you can ask to be brought something white and interesting without feeling like a wanker and confident that the wine will meet all the specifications.
There's plenty of interesting wine to drink – around 700 bottles' worth – plus a short, sharp list of beer, cider and soft drinks from excellent Aussie brand StrangeLove. There's also a single cocktail, at present an Imbruglio Spritz that teams the Campari-like Imbroglio (made by the Poor Toms gin folk in Sydney) with prosecco, soda, lots of ice and a wedge of orange. It does the trick.
Being an enoteca-style joint means that all the wines on the shelves can be consumed in-house, either inside or at one of the tables on the wide footpath out front. Choose a bottle for under $60 and you'll pay $10 extra to guzzle it on the spot. Anything over $60 you get for the shelf price.
The wine list has been assembled with the same care and precision as the fitout. There's classically made and minimal-intervention stuff from across the globe that might include an elegant chardonnay and ugni blanc blend from Les Deux Terres in Languedoc, the palest pink dry Chalmers rosato, made mostly from aglianico grapes grown in Heathcote, or a pet-nat called Astro Bunny from Wildman Wine in – where else? – South Australia.
The precision continues with the snacks. The theme is simplicity and great ingredients, hence Ortiz anchovies carefully arranged with pale pink house-pickled onions, a lemon cheek and crostini or a generous piece of nutty French comte served at the height of its correctly aged and stored powers with quince jam, baguette and crackers.
The smooth designer moves of Magnum + Queens match the homewares vibe of its Coventry Street locale perfectly. Fitting in is what all good neighbourhood wine bars do. And this is one of the best of them.
Martini Meter: N/A. It's a wine bar. Your martini cravings will need to go elsewhere.
Go-to bar snack Plump, delicious and meticulously arranged Ortiz anchovies served with house-made pickled onions and crostini, $16.