Whatever iteration Marion’s menu is in, one can never go past the flatbread with fromage blanc, a staple so universally adored it’s never left. Salt-speckled, garlicky wedges of dough give way to the most pillowy interiors, which go a treat when dipped in fresh cheese so smooth and spreadable it’s akin to a yoghurt.
Housemade seed-studded rye crisps are the standout accompaniment to the smoked trout rillette, a rich and creamy mixture that’s more textured than a pâté but just as indulgent. Be rewarded with chunks of fresh smoked trout layered within the rillette and fresh pops of roe atop, with the radishes doing a great job of cutting through everything with its mild pepperiness.
Every wine bar in Melbourne has a crudo, carpaccio or tartare on its menu and though Marion’s raw tuna goes by a simple name, it evokes the same feeling. Light, summery and zingy, the tuna is enlivened by a light soy dressing and the crunch of coriander seeds.
A smokiness assails our senses as soon as the baked pipe rigate is placed in front of us. Lightly charred snail shells soaked in a spicy vodka sauce so lustrous there’s cheese pull is what’s on offer, and it’s a worthy addition to Marion’s menu.
A Father’s Day special when we visit is the immaculately crumbed veal cotoletta in a crispy sage butter with zucchini pickles. The veal within is tender and medium-rare pink. For a green side to your mains, the Ramarro Farm leaves sweetened by bursts of pickled wild figs is a highlight.
It’s hard to fit in dessert but we persevere for the sake of the Valrhona chocolate terrine with soused cherry and cream. The premium French chocolate is moulded into an oblong topped with plump cherries rendered sweet and slightly tart. The lush, silky cherry sauce blanketing the chocolate is a pleasing antidote to the chocolate’s bitterness, and the cream ties everything together.
A wine bar that lays the prototype for all wine bars in Melbourne, it’d be remiss to not sample a bottle in Marion’s extensive selection. We’re after an orange wine, and the sommelier’s thoughtful, expansive explanations on the different skin-contact wines on offer helps us come to our decision on the Maison Rigal 'Vin Orange' Gros Manseng from the Gascony region of southwest France – the discernible notes of mandarin sway us. The Marionite, with its yuzu sweet vermouth, and the Dante, with its alluring mix of marsala and the botanical undertones of Cocchi Americano Bianco, are highlights on the cocktail menu.
Marion is plush and elegant, but it’s never too cool for school – fries can be ordered by the half-serve if you’re in a duo, wine can be ordered by the half-bottle, and all manner of questions (whether about wine or food) are welcomed by the accommodating staff. Like all good neighbourhood wine bars, the focus is on the customer and, above all, comfort.