Bars & Pubs

Belle’s Hot Chicken to Open Bar Clarine

By Stephen A Russell - 07 Mar 2015

When co-owners Miranda Campbell and chef Morgan McGlone threw open the doors of Gertrude Street’s Nashville-style funky chook shack Belle’s Hot Chicken last year, they had no fears about folks shooting the breeze with their spicy wings. What they didn’t necessarily expect was that the natural wine list would prove just as popular, if not more so, than the whiskey.

‘We always knew the chicken would do well, but we really didn’t think wine sales would reach the levels they did and that the natural wine community would embrace us as much as they have,’ Campbell says.

Flash fry forwards and next month the Belle’s crew will open Bar Clarine in the slender space next door that’s always been part of their lease but has, until now, played host to a fair few pop-us. The new venue will take a very different tack from what Campbell describes as Belle’s, ‘raucous goodtime girl, ’ showcasing a European-influenced menu and an expanded wine list of around 40-50 varietals.

‘We’re pitching it as twin sisters who have gone very different paths,’ Campbell says. ‘Bar Clarine is sweet, small and very sophisticated. We’ve done a complete U-turn, from Nashville-style friend chicken to fresher, lighter food that’s more sympathetic to the wine list. We’ve given Morgan the opportunity to cook the food he originally trained in.’

Bar Clarine’s locally sourced and seasonal menu will include house-made pickles and terrines sold by the inch, as well as offering their own cheeses and other charcuterie nibbles. There will also be freshly shucked oysters and a big focus on raw and fresh vegetables. ‘We really wanna engage with the best our state has to offer and showcase that,’ Campbell adds.

Always ready to embrace new ideas, Campbell has been impressed by Melbourne diners’ willingness to get on board with the wines, which involve as little chemical intervention as possible. ‘There’s a real ethos and thought-process behind it, an intimacy with the grapes, the land and with the producer. We feel the differences between that and conventional wines are worlds apart. Not that it’s a competition, but we really believe in the producers and what they do and have an enormous respect for the way they craft their wines.’

Campbell is hesitant to claim any glory for pushing the industry to the forefront through Belle’s Hot Chicken. ‘I think it was a timing thing; we really just caught the crest of the wave, putting it into a format that was really approachable as well. I don’t think anyone could be intimidated by our Belle’s menu. People can access those wines in a really fun environment.’

Moving up the road from Andrew McConnell’s Moon Under Water, George McCulloch will be front of house at Bar Clarine, with Peter Jo assisting on expanding on the good work achieved crafting Belle’s wine list. ‘I’ve really got to commend him for really developing an easy and accessible language around the wines so that, above all, it’s enjoyable,’ Campbell says. ‘We’re often dealing with quite limited amounts because of the nature of the wine. There are endless wines out there to try, and that’s George’s job.’

Sporting a clean, Scandinavian look that makes the most of 150-year-old exposed bluestone walls as well as the obligatory bright white and wooden finishes, Campbell adds, ‘we really want the colour to come from the plate and the wine.’

Bar Clarine is set to open on Gertrude Street in April. 

Image credit: Belle's Hot Chicken via Facebook

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