Both being Richmond boys, when Punch Lane owner Martin Pirc and his head chef Daniel Schelbert stumbled across the perfect spot on Swan Street near the corner with Church, it was a no brainer for their sibling wine bar Saint. Urban.
“Being a Richmond resident, there was a thought bubble that was really sort of attached to a personal need,” Pirc says. “Where would my partner and I or my friends go? There was a need for somewhere quality but where you feel at ease.”
Working the same relaxed vibe as the city outpost, where punters can pop in for a glass of wine and a cheeseboard or settle in for the night enjoying several courses without emptying their wallet, Saint. Urban is a warm space with its mosaic tile floor, distressed walls and stripped back wood, all about welcoming the locals.
“It’s about being a resident and going back to home-grown,” Pirc says. “Everyone wants to celebrate their neighbourhood. It’s a local place that’s accessible on a few different levels. It’s inviting and endearing, appealing to both a younger and older set.”
Schelbert’s menu features yum nibbles like sheep’s haloumi with peppered wild figs, freshly shucked oysters and pork trotter croquettes. You can grab charred ox tongue with mustard fruit and horseradish or wagyu carpaccio with Manchego custard, upland cress and pickled king brown.
Larger feeds take in the likes of Western Plains pork cutlet with braised yellow pepper and spiced almonds or a barramundi fillet with fennel, pickled rhubarb and chorizo. Or you can take it easy and select your own DIY cheeseboard from the blackboard, just like at Punch Lane.
“Daniel has been with me at Punch Lane going on about three years,” Pirc says of his business partner. “I realised I’d met my counterpart, with his attention to detail, work ethic and genuine care factor.”
As with Punch Lane, the wine is just as important as the food offering at Saint. Urban. A marriage between Australian and European varieties, there are sixteen by the glass and you can grab half bottles as well as some excellent full bottle options around the $60 mark. Local beers include Hawkers Pilsner and Mountain Goat IPA.
As winter begins to fade, an indoor/outdoor courtyard ensconced in the street frontage will come into its own for evenings spent whiling away the wee hours chatting with mates over a glass or two or three.
Pirc says settling on a name was the hardest part about the project, but stumbling across the fourth century bishop of Langres, France, in a book, and his personal story, including evasion of religious persecution by hiding out in vineyards, fit both the look and the spirit of the venue.
“The fact that he’s a real person with a connection to wine was great,” he says. “The design really held together with the name. When you walk in in the morning with the light filtering through, you could just sit down a read a book in there. All of those worlds came together, there’s a storyboard you can work with and it’s fun.”
Accessed by a laneway, Melbourne wine bar, Saint. Urban brings some of Punch Lane’s pioneering city spirit to Richmond too. “It’s inviting people into an experience from the very beginning,” Pirc says. “If you’re walking by the place and think ‘that looks really inviting’ and you’re lured round the corner, it adds to the find.”
Image credit: Saint. Urban