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Lilac Wine Bar

  • Bars
  • Cremorne
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
  1. An intimate wine bar featuring wooden cabinets, lush greenery and windows.
    Photograph: Supplied
  2. Elegant glass bowl containing radishes and a white sauce.
    Photograph: Supplied
  3. A patio dining area with umbrellas, wine drinkers and a golden labrador.
    Photograph: Supplied
  4. Decorated plate of wine bar fare and a napkin.
    Photograph: Supplied
  5. Choux pastries on a decorated plate and a glass of red wine on a table with menus and napkins.
    Photograph: Supplied

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Lilac Wine flirts with adventure and brings a point of difference to Melbourne’s wine bar scene

Melbourne is awash with excellent wine bars and high-end casual dining. In most places, the menu can be predictable, with reliable stalwarts like burrata (slowly being phased out by stracciatella), tartare (tuna or beef), raw kingfish and oily fish on bread sure to make an appearance.

But Lilac in Cremorne feels different. Presentation and flavour are all swanky Melbourne wine bar, but the surreptitious use of offal hints at a refreshing audaciousness. Blood pudding and beef heart stealthily blend into the menu and dishes, like a mum sneaking vegetables into her bolognese. If offal isn't your thing, don't worry. Head chef Kyle Nicol's (Rascal) holistic approach to cooking extends beyond offal and incorporates all elements of sustainability, with good quality produce at the forefront. This is no surprise – Lilac is the newest addition to the Mulberry Group (Dessous, Hazel), who primarily source their ingredients from their agricultural farm on the outskirts of Geelong. 

Equal parts eclectic and stylish, Lilac sits in the bones of a warehouse glammed up with a floor-to-ceiling glass entrance, Persian rugs and dusty lavender couches. We're visiting for the Sunday lunch, which offers two courses for $55 or three for $65. We go with three, and you may as well chuck in some smalls while we're at it. Kicking things off with the mince on toast ($14). A homey classic elevated to excellence by incorporating chicken liver and heart, its flavour is nostalgic and profoundly comforting, and with the help of curry powder and horseradish, it should convert the most obstinate of offal sceptics. A couple of hand-dived Kangaroo Island scallops ($8ea) are plump and fresh, served in the shell with herby butter. 

Our set lunch begins with a round of snacks: plump acidic pickles, fluffy woodfired sourdough and a pig ear, puntarelle and celeriac remoulade. The remoulade is almost yoghurty, with a pleasing creamy sourness. It is the perfect home for the shaved celeriac and puntarelle, coating them to create a satisfying consistency. The pig ear has been pickled in vinegar, juniper, and black and pink peppercorns but is subtly flavoured, especially when mixed in. Its strength is in the texture, a gratifying balance of gelatinous yield and cartilagey crunch. 

The starters are irreverent and playful, so we follow suit by freestyling drink orders. A Granny's Green Apple Soda ($12) and a Sour Raspberry Creaming Soda ($8), both with a gratuitous shot of Charlatan Modern Gin ($12), match the pace nicely.

For mains, there's a choice between lamb rump or whole fish, and because Sundays are exponentially better with a roast, we opt for the lamb. The lamb serving is small – two (thick-ish) slices to share between me and my dining partner. They come paired with buttery chard, watermelon radishes and beetroot ketchup. Although the serving is a little stingy, it's undeniably delicious, with the fat rendered to crackling perfection. For sides, there is a simply dressed salad and a bowl of The Best Potatoes I Have Ever Had™. Cooked in duck fat, they are salty, crunchy and impossibly fluffy. All potatoes are good potatoes, but these were a paragon of carby goodness. There's something visceral about a well-executed roast, and my body's response to this meal is how I imagine Popeye feels when he eats spinach. It's invigorating, nourishing and irrefutably enjoyable. 

We wash this down with a glass of 2017 Romano Calitro ($18) on recommendation from our waiter. He describes it as "dusty" but assures me it's non-pejorative. It pairs well with the main course, and the dusty description is well-used. Light-bodied and delicate, it has a pleasingly long finish and incites images of fireplaces and libraries. The wine list is an approachable, want-for-nothing mix of European and local drops. It's extensive but considerately broken down into easy-to-read subcategories. If you're still confused or just after a vino-focused chat, the floor staff are confident with suggestions and advice. In fact, the floor staff are across all aspects of the venue, and they congenially answer my million questions with patience and smiles. Rounding our meal off with a cream cheese flan and berries that will satisfy sweet and savoury tooths alike – it's a Sunday afternoon well spent. 

I love stracciatella and tartare, but variety is the spice of life after all, and Lilac brings something a little different to the Melbourne wine bar scene. It's cohesive and bold and dares to do something to challenge our kingfish-ridden palettes. All wrapped up in a familiar panache that will please the most die-hard of Melbourne wine bar enthusiasts (me).

Craving a cheeky tipple? These are Melbourne's best wine bars. On a budget? Check out the city's best happy hours.

Written by
Emily Morrison


31 Stephenson Street
View Website
Opening hours:
Wed-Thu 4pm-late; Fri-Sat 12pm-late; Sun 12-5pm
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