Published on 30 October 2019
If you’ve dined at Ides in Collingwood, chances are you’ve enjoyed the warmth and assurance brought to the experience by maître d’ Louise Naimo. Her recent adventures have included developing booze-free pairings for chef Peter Gunn’s clever vegetable-forward tasting menus. Consisting of teas, infusions and tinctures such as verjuice infused with nori, black olive salt and rose, the soft pairing changes constantly along with the menu. Naimo, who studied design before switching to front-of-house, describes each match as its own design challenge, often taking months to perfect and days to prepare.
The last truly delicious thing I drank was Gong Cha passionfruit green tea (with a quarter sugar): peak refreshment!
As far as I’m concerned, the defining place to get a drink in Melbourne is Capitano in Carlton because it’s Aussie-Italian for the modern drinker. Italian migration has defined Melbourne’s dining scene; Capitano manages to pay homage to the classics while also appeasing next-generation drinkers. It’s the place to go if you want a big-boy Barolo, a bright and skinsy Victorian white, the perfect espresso or a clarified Bellini.
If I were to choose a Victorian drink purely on the strength of its label, I’d go for Sailor’s Grave Sou’ East Draught. Actually, pretty much any can from the Sailor’s Grave range. Kinda sketchy, light-hearted and thoughtful.
The Victorian spirit I’m digging the most right now is Anther Gin, London dry style, made at Craft & Co down the road from Ides. It’s great in an Aviation, delicious with some fresh grapefruit juice, or with a splash of dry tonic.
When someone hands me a wine list in a restaurant, I ask for help. If I'm not already dining with a sommelier, wine professional or certified wine nerd, there’s no better place to turn for advice than the staff at the restaurant. Someone has taken the time and effort to put together the list especially for you to enjoy with the restaurant's food and most of the time it's been curated with passion. Talking to a staff member about it will be a mutually rewarding exchange. It also gives them a better insight into you as a guest, making it easier for them to deliver the experience that you'll most enjoy. Win-win.
There’s no better value on a wine list in this state than Konpira Maru. Al [Reed] and Sam [Cook] are lovely guys who are making deeply delicious and approachable wines. You can pick up their 2019 Mt Midoriyama Pét Nat for under $30 retail. Tasty, fizzy, picnic wine!
For me, the most inspiring person in the Victorian drinks world is actually a couple of people. This is a hard question! I’m gonna go with Jess Ho and Elenor Butler because they’re both super-cool creatives with amazing brains. Jess has an ability to read through trends in the industry before they even seem to be happening. She’s a huge booze nerd and a dedicated student of every cuisine. Elenor is someone who I think indelibly shaped service style in Melbourne. I look to the atmospheres and experiences she crafted front-of-house at Embla – the feeling that as a guest, in that moment, you’re part of this one-off, golden event – and I aspire to deliver the same level of savviness, warmth and lack of pretension that I believe has become a hallmark Melbourne service, in no small part because of her.
See Louise in action at Ides (92 Smith St, Collingwood) or follow her on Instagram: @epitomy.
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