How I Melbourne: Nicky Riemer

Published on 8 May 2019

Photo: Nicky Riemer

Bellota Wine Bar chef Nicky Riemer grew up surrounded by hospitality: her father was a hotelier and passed on his love of food to his daughter. Wanting to realise her own culinary ambitions, Riemer did time at Richmond Hill Café & Larder, Mecca Bah and Melbourne Wine Room before opening beloved Melbourne institution Union Dining in Richmond, which picked up chef’s hats, stars and other accolades during its six years. Now Riemer is head chef at Bellota in South Melbourne, offering a European dining and drinking experience with an emphasis on classic Italian food alongside a great selection of wines.

I know I’m in Melbourne when I hear the footy siren blare from the MCG, I have an umbrella in my bag for the change in weather, and I can smell the perfectly brewed coffee in the air.

My first defining food moment in Melbourne was when my parents took me to Flower Drum when I was 16. It was just after we moved to Melbourne and I have never forgotten the experience. I think it cemented my love of all things delicious. We ate Peking duck and baked crab shell, which were both amazing and I can still remember the duck pancakes being assembled at our table.

The best new thing I’ve found is all the locally made gins being stocked in our many boutique wine stores, like Blackheart & Sparrows or Prince Wine Store. These herbaceous gins are making their way into a cocktail or two Bellota. We have some very talented people distilling some amazing gins here in Victoria, so seek them out now.

When I want to push the boat out on a meal, I go to Minamishima in Richmond. It’s worth every cent.

There’s no better value in Melbourne than South Melbourne Market. So many great food stalls to get wonderful produce at great prices, with a smile and knowledge to boot.

And when I want to dazzle friends from out of town, I like to take them for cocktails and gorgeous Italian food at Città, Ronnie Di Stasio’s new city outpost. It’s the best spot for a fine drink and snack, amongst the art, in the best part of town.

In the mornings you’ll find me walking my dogs, grabbing a takeaway coffee from Café Veneziano and a croissant from my local patisserie, Penny for Pound – the best way to start the day.

My local is Mayday on Bridge Road because they know my coffee order without a word from me.

If I could change one thing about eating and drinking here it would be making it easier to open every day of the year, so we could eat, drink and be merry every day.

But the one thing I hope never changes in Melbourne is our love of all our multicultural food. We embrace all cuisines – Greek, Ethiopian, Spanish, Chinese, Italian, Moroccan, Turkish – so much to name, so many to try, I’m getting hungry as I type.

See where else Nicky is loving right now over at @nickyriemer.

Bellota Wine Bar, 181 Bank St, South Melbourne, 9078 8381.

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