Together with Mark Hopkinson and Renton Carlyle of Richmond café Romulus & Remus, Kubis has worked his magic on an old milk bar on Commercial Road, turning the skinny terrace into a sexy slip of a wine bar.
Taking a stylistic cue from its older siblings, the Alps teams exposed bricks with honey-toned timbers and flattering, flickering candles. At the back of the building, the intimate ‘Cabin’ room works a cosy ski chalet vibe, thanks to its cast-iron brazier and cushioned banquettes. Beyond, a conifer-lined courtyard crammed with picnic tables lies in wait for warmer days, but for now, unless you’re sparking up, the interiors beckon for cool wines on cold nights.
Here, suited-and-booted southerners gather around the tall communal table and tiny perches for two along one wall. On the opposite wall, Kubis has amassed some 400 wines, largely boutique Australians and interesting imports. There are two prices scrawled on each bottle and the premise is simple: pay the lesser price and get your wine to go, or add $15 to enjoy it in situ. Much as the Alps could function as your local bottle-o, this isn’t really a grab-and-dash proposition – we wager you’ll want to linger over that bottle of peppery Brash Higgins FRNC in the bar.
Not that you need to commit to a whole bottle, mind you. The 20-strong by-the-glass list offers an intrepid collection of natural-leaning locals from the likes of Tom Shobbrook and Patrick Sullivan, plus cherry-picked imports, such as the perfumed Pittnauer Blaufrankisch rosé from Austria (hello, summer), and a full-bodied biodynamic Domaine Belluard sparkling from the Savoie region in the French Alps.
That alpine motif is writ large across the menu, with bottles divided into Green Runs (easy and accessible, like the Range Life Prosecco), Off Piste (experimental and fun, such as Domaine Lucci’s spritzy pet nat), Double Diamond Runs (perhaps Jamsheed’s seriously good Syrah), and Heli-Ski (life-changing wines like Philippe Pacalet’s Grand Cru Pinot Noir, a natural beauty at $340 a pop).
Even wine-mad Kubis understands the need for a cleansing ale, curating a sharp list of four beers on tap, perhaps Edge Brewing Cereal Killer and Panhead Oatmeal Stout, plus a dozen-odd cans and bottles bearing Young Henry’s and Pirate Life.
As kitchen space is at a premium, the snacking is restricted to wine-friendly French and Italian classics, such as a densely packed pork terrine studded with pistachios; a creamy, sweet orb of burrata; and blush-pink vitello tonnato with the salty smack of tuna mayo, capers and parmesan. Accompanied by a week’s worth of baguette, the dishes are generous and satisfying, but they could have all done with a few more minutes out of the fridge to knock back some of that frigid chill.
No matter – you’ll soon warm up over a second (or third) bottle of red. Such is the allure of the Alps: it’s dangerously easy to go off piste.