Among the wannabies and the Johnny-come-latelies stands the enoteca showing Gertrude Street how it’s done
An enoteca is a casual wine shop where people can taste, purchase and take home wines while stopping by for a bite. Gertrude Street Enoteca is all that, only better.
Why? Because it has captured the Italian virtues of warmth, conviviality, simplicity and rusticity. And because it harnesses the considerable talents of owners Jamie Broadway and Brigitte Hafner. Jamie is the wine buyer, wine importer (meaning you’ll find some very unusual Italian labels in cellar) and photographer. Brigitte is the chef, a food writer across national publications and a farmer. This means the Enoteca embraces the Italian philosophy whole-heartedly and uses the most timely and freshest produce in a way that highlights ingredients over technique.
Wines by the glass change almost daily, and must fit Jamie’s one simple condition to make the list: it has to be very good. On this day, a Mas de Libian Roussane blend and shiraz/grenache from the Cotes du Rhône sits on the list next to Hochkirch riesling from Hamilton, WA and the Wanderer pinot noir from the Upper Yarra in Victoria. Wines are fairly priced, but it’s not uncommon to see an occasional glass over $20. If you don’t fancy anything on the list, take a look in the cellar and add $15 to the bottle to drink-in.
The crew are rigorously trained and it’s obvious the prerequisite for being employed is a passion for wine – you can learn to carry plates later. The staff talk wine, mix cocktails, pour drinks and prepare the food to order.
There’s always a rolling menu of favourites: the vitello tonnato begging to be mopped up by the crusty chunks of baguette it comes with; a bitter leaf tart housed in a short, butter-laden pastry served alongside a just-dressed salad; and their much fawned-over hot dinner, which changes on a daily basis. It might be a slow-braised lamb shoulder with a cos salad and rosemary potatoes, confit duck with lentils and roasted walnuts, or a life-changing lasagne doused in grassy, extra virgin olive oil.
Gertrude Street Enoteca isn’t trendy, and isn’t trying to be. It was cool before Gertrude Street was cool and just really damn good.