James: A wine bar for South Melbourne locals
Since opening in 2015, Wynyard has been an important addition to the South Melbourne café community.
Wynyard’s co-owner, Kirbie Tate, is now offering more to the local community with James: a wine bar extension for Wynyard that has the locals of South Melbourne in mind.
Listening to the community’s desires
With Tate explaining that a later service was always in the works for the café, opening up James seemed like the natural progression.
“We knew an after-hours operation was lacking and it was a really good opportunity with this floor space and street frontage to do a wine bar and see how it goes,” Tate said.
As much as it was part of Tate’s plans, she really was echoing the voices in the South Melbourne community who were asking about how they could stay longer, enjoy drinks and bring their family along in the evening.
“We’ve always had the same crowd, it was just about offering them more.”
Acting as more seating for Wynyard by day, the space effortlessly transforms into a wine bar for the South Melbourne community.
Japanese-centric fare inspired by the surroundings
Highlighted by a large blue-brick wall, the space at James is intimate and welcoming. It feels like a strong part of the South Melbourne neighbourhood, situated just off Clarendon Street.
On the menu, inspired by homewares store Made in Japan (which backs onto Wynyard and James), visitors can dine on dishes that Tate describes as “Japanese-ish”.
After a selection of vegetarian, scallop or chicken bao, it’s hard to go past a delicious pork katsu curry with shiso cabbage sauce, or luscious teriyaki beef rib.
Even more appealing is a chef’s selection that serves two for $60 per person, or the vegetarian alternative for only $30 per person.
While the food is supreme, James’ wine list is where things really start to get interesting.
Wines for the people, by the people
A unique feature of James is their guest sommelier program. Tate said that having local experts provide their wine selections on a rotational basis was a key part of creating the space.
The current guest sommelier is Corey Morris, who hails from Bellota Wine Bar in nearby Bank Street. Tate explained the program was about highlighting people they – and their customers – knew in the area.
Morris is featuring a range of Victorian, Tasmanian and South Australian white selections. Also available are Coravin options, where the wine is extracted without removing the cork, which includes a 2015 Matrot Meursault from Burgundy.
Tate also detailed James’ next initiative to utilise their local customers’ wine expertise, in showing off their own cellar and having a selection of their wine on the menu.
“It’s just a continuation of this local space and allowing us to stay. We were never about being the latest and greatest bar; we were about creating a very solid, local space, which could be an institution for the area,” she said.
Colonial Brewing Co also keeps the local theme going, standing out as the sole beer provider on James’ list with their South West Sour and Colonial Draught being great matches for food offerings.
Creating a community space for the future
For James’ future, Tate is intent on providing further inclusion for the South Melbourne community by hosting community events for adults and families in the Wynyard Street/James Lane precinct.
“We want to utilise these outdoor spaces and make it about not only James having these events for the community. It’ll be Wynyard, Made In Japan, Bellota, Cloudwine Cellars, any of those local business coming together, to collaborate in the spaces, and give the community a space to get off the main street.”
Check out other attractive destinations in South Melbourne, or see what else the City of Port Phillip has to offer you from our latest blog posts.
323 Clarendon Street, South Melbourne
Wednesday to Monday: 8am - 11pm