From 4pm, the Synesso machine is switched off, the pastries are packed up and the single origins are put away. Soldier on Espresso makes way for Oak & Steel, a small, wine bar serving Australian wines.
If the lights seem a little bright for a wine bar, that’s because of the art on the walls. Owner Tim Bruce is also the owner of Edmund Pearce Gallery in the CBD and likes to give his artists a second showing. Bruce also curates the wines, bringing you a short, solid, affordable list.
Bruce likes his list to focus on a different Australian state every ten weeks; right now, Victoria’s on the menu. Glasses are up to $14, with the most expensive being a Heathcote shiraz. You’ve got a William’s Crossing by Curly Flat pinot noir from Macedon at $10 a glass, and Tarrawarra Estate chardonnay from the Yarra Valley at the same price. None of them sound as sexy to a wine enthusiast as Juama or Pat Sullivan, but hey, there’s nothing wrong with Pizzini arneis.
Beers too, are currently from Victoria, with Kooinda American Pale Ale, Hargreaves Hill ESB and the 2 Brothers Taxi Pilsner sitting on the list at $9 a stubby. Due to space, food offerings are limited to Victorian cheeses, dips and olives. Bruce knows he can’t keep a wine bar running on snacks, so employs a clever arrangement to keep his customers happy: reverse BYO. Buy a glass and sit in with food from neighbouring restaurants. Since Oak and Steel is just off Chapel on High, you’ve got the likes of Charlie Dumpling and Hanoi Hannah at your disposal. That is, unless you really, really want that kebab from Lamb on Chapel to go with your glass of Mitchelton Estate shiraz.
Opposite notoriously messy nightclub 161 may seem an unlikely place to have an easy-going wine bar. But, with Oak & Steel’s unique dine-in policy and honest-to-goodness wine list, it could just be what the neighbourhood needed.