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By Law Institute Journal





How we rate it:
18 to 20: Would take my best client here
15 to 17: A safe bet for client entertainment
12 to 14: Best for a lunch with colleagues
<12: Life’s too short, try somewhere else

122 Russell Street

After bursting onto the scene in 2016, Embla wine bar took out the Good Food Best New Restaurant in its inaugural year. Its modern European cuisine is served in a chic space fitted out with comforting solid wood and exposed brickwork.

Embla has reopened to limited numbers and a $100 per person minimum spend.

We start with oysters and a wonderfully soft but piquante chardonnay vinegar ice (granita) ($6 ea). Yellowfin tuna ($19) is a spectacularly plated carpaccio in which a layer of a caper-studded buttermilk ricotta is topped with a sheet of rich-pink fish and brushed with a film of olive oil. The delicious marriage of creamy and savoury flavours is a highly successful, running theme on the menu. Preserved chicken ($18) is a delightful composed salad featuring nuggets of poached and lightly pickled chicken nestled in vibrantly green broad beans and their leaves, cultured cream, and accented with slivers of aromatic yuzu rind. Fearful of leaving traces of creamy juices from these dishes on plates, we grab a serve of the seeded sourdough ($7) which is expertly baked and accompanied by an addictive Kalamata butter.

Main dishes begin with squid ($25), which comes as deftly scored, umami-rich pieces of fried meat, paired beautifully with spring pea shoots, charred fennel and ginger. This simple but lovely offering epitomises Embla’s casual yet super-tasty and fresh approach to their food. Koji aged lamb leg ($38) is slices of a medium-rare, beautifully moist and flavourful cut of lamb, topped with a scoop of garlic ricotta. This dish is perfectly paired with baked celeriac ($18), in which delicately thin scallops of celery-root with caramelised edges are topped with a heavenly mix of roasted peanuts, thyme and a hint of melted aged cheddar.

We choose a splendid Yarra Valley 2019 Salo Chardonnay ($90), with a solid measure of wood, mineral and fruit characteristics that pairs well across our somewhat diverse menu.

Desserts hold up their end of the bargain. Chocolate ripple-misu ($17) is a welcome tweak of the often-mushy genre, with richly flavoured and just firm to the bite biscuits layered between boozy marscapone. The frozen milk ($17) is a dainty combination of ice, compressed rhubarb slices and rose geranium.

Embla’s casual yet refined approach to dining is an almost unbeatable choice for a lunch venue that is fit for a special lunch with valued clients. ■

Shaun Ginsbourg is a hungry barrister.


Florentino’s Cellar Bar 

80 Bourke Street

If you are part of the trickle back into the CBD, having a morning coffee/tea/Italian hot chocolate at the Cellar Bar will ease the re-entry. Part of the Florentino empire at the top of Bourke Street, it’s all carved wood, soft lighting and Italian frescoes, a cafe firmly in the European tradition. A hot, strong, creamy coffee – roasted by Territory Melbourne Coffee, which produces small seasonal batches hand-crafted to bring out nut, caramel, nougat and marzipan flavours – paired with a freshly squeezed OJ and fruit toast, pastries, crumpets or granola – make this spot a treat for breakfast, inside or out under the canopy of the London plane trees. Open 7.30am-late. CF


Bottle of Kilikanoon Skilly Valley Pinot Gris 2020

Kilikanoon Skilly Valley Pinot Gris 2020

RRP $25

For a great all-rounder white wine that can comfortably fit into almost any Christmas celebration, think pinot gris. 

Kilikanoon sources gris from the Skillogalee district of the Clare Valley. Note the rosè-like tinge, a good sign, which indicates that the pink blush of the grape’s skin (with accompanying flavour and textural components) has not been removed during winemaking. Lively spiced apple and citrus to the fore, joined by dried pear, a trace of ginger on the palate with trademark umani mouthfeel. 

Open with seafood cocktail.


Bottle of Yangarra Estate Vineyard Rose 2020

Yangarra Estate Vineyard Rose 2020

RRP $27

Eye-catching, Provençal blush colour sets the scene for this McLaren Vale Grenache rose. Apple blossom joins wild strawberry and cherry in the energetic youngster. Grenache florals are a big part of its charm, together with a solid appley, strawberry flavour core. A ping of acidity caps it all off cleanly. Bright and beautiful.

Enjoy with smoked salmon.

Stockist: Primrose & Vine, Essendon, Wine Republic stores, Port Melbourne IGA, Naughtons Parkville Hotel,

Bottle of Merindoc Willoughby Bridge Heathcote Shiraz 2018

Merindoc Willoughby Bridge Heathcote Shiraz 2018

RRP $35

Heathcote shiraz is rightly famous for astounding deep colour and complex flavours, but it is a big region with a number of styles at play. Merindoc Vintners’ Willoughby Bridge vineyard is to the north producing this fine and super elegant shiraz. Brilliant deep red-garnet colour. Subtle aromas with black berries, cassis, cinnamon and earth. Generous in flavour, medium in body with a light savouriness, this young red is approachable and more than ready for the Christmas table. 

Open with roast turkey.

Stockist: ■

Jeni Port is a Melbourne wine writer, author and judge.

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