There's not a lot going on in the Eastern Road pocket of South Melbourne: a few office buildings, quiet residential streets and scenic positioning near Albert Park Lake. Though there's a lot going on at Woodsyard, the little wine bar hidden amongst said quiet streets that draws locals, workers and visitors alike.
Conceptually, Woodsyard's a little local eatery. By day, it's more of an espresso bar, with coffee and a chalkboard doodled with varieties of gourmet sandwiches (think: roast chicken and salsa verde, stock-braised brisket with malt vinegar onions or porchetta with fennel fronds). By night, it's very much a wine bar, one that's serious about natural wine and produce-driven snacks.
The space itself is intimate and moody, with black walls and ceilings lit by Art Deco-style pendants. Natural, biodynamic and low-intervention wines line the shelves. On the tables are those makeshift candle holders that have been bistro lighting since time immemorial: old wine bottles with taper candles stuck in, the wax melted down to cover the bottles. It’s all pretty cool and cosy.
Woodsyard is the kind of place locals wander over to for a wine and then stay for the snacks and inevitably the pizzas. There’s a strong emphasis on skin contact wines here and one minute into chatting with co-owner Kris Wood (who opened Woodsyard with his brother Aaron just as the pandemic hit) and you’ll realise he’s serious about the offering, giving you the backstory to each bottle and helpfully guiding you through the list depending on your preferences.
Natural wines usually don’t come cheap, and here the bottles on the list range from about $70 to $200. There are some gems: for the orange lovers, for instance, a 2019 Dinavolino Vino Blanco from the coveted La Stoppa biodynamic vineyard in Italy that's fruity and made for easy drinking. For those who like things red, bright and chilled, a 2020 Vintage Mix from Margaret River by winemaker Sam Vinciullo. For those who want something they’d be hard pressed to find elsewhere, a bottle of Axel Prüfer 2020 ‘Le Temp des Cerises’ Grenache blend from France. This one can best be described as delightfully funky with a goes-down-too-easily swirl of sour cherry, light acidity and a clean finish that would be a welcomed wine pairing to any and all of the snacks on offer.
The oysters are a cracking start, and hint that the team at Woodsyard aren't messing around when it comes to sourcing the finest produce. Here, they've gone to Wapengo Rocks on the NSW South Coast, Australia's first oyster farm to achieve Certified Organic status. What results are fresh, saline oysters with a creamy, rich aftertaste. They're a delight. Whilst anchovy toast with salsa verde errs on the salty side, Fremantle whitebait is a standout with its fried, crunchy texture and tangy lemon seasoning that will have you eating them one after the other as if they're moreish French fries, with a side of tartare to dip.
If there was ever a dish for leisurely afternoons sipping on wine and snacking, it's the gnoccho fritto with shavings of mortadella – the small pillows of dough made for wrapping in cured meat and dipping into soft whipped goats curd for a salty, creamy, carb-full bite that could be heavy and oily, but is instead light and fluffy. It's no surprise that this is a hit, given dough is very much in Woodsyard's domain.
Which leads us to the sourdough pizzas – the real star of the show. Made from naturally fermented dough and a 15-year-old starter, the pizzas here have been mastered by co-owner Aaron Wood, who travelled to Perth to work under five-time World Pizza Champion Theo Kalogeracos. And it shows: the dough’s thin on the base but not sloppy, thicker on the crust and perfectly blistered by the woodfire oven. The flavour combinations aren’t your average but they work damn well. Think: mushroom ragù and Tallegio, or spicy Calabrian sausage. But of all, it’s the guanciale, honey and chilli that’ll have you coming back. A little fatty, a touch salty, an inch sweet and a hint spicy, it hits just about every spot.
Woodsyard is just about everything you could ask for in a local neighbourhood eatery, the kind of place locals can frequent regularly when they feel like dining out but not straying too far. It's exciting and versatile enough to make a weekend night out of, yet relaxed enough to pop down to for a quick hit of midweek carb-loaded comfort. It's the unassuming little spot in South Melbourne worth keeping on your radar.