The Vale Bar
Of all the hot colour Pantones we thought we’d see in 2018, purple wasn’t on the short list. But here it is anyway, covering the ceiling and walls of The Vale, Ascot Vale’s brand new wine, pizza and charcuterie bar. It’s like someone spilled a Grimace in here.
The Vale is the new project from hospo pros Simon Henderson and John Ryan (Glamorama, Less Than Zero) plus Renata Waihi, James Gullans, Harrison Peace. It's a sultry, corner drinking den on the Union Rd strip.
You’ll spot the awning out front (more purple). Push through and you’ll find a classy late-night wine bar, decked out in frosted glass, flickering candles, dark timber and stone-topped bench tables.
“We found the spot on Gumtree,” says Simon. “I’m based just down the road in Kensington. We wanted to make a space the locals could relate to, where they’d feel comfortable.”
This is exactly what Ascot Vale’s been craving. Sandwiched between Flemington, Travancore, Moonee Ponds and Maribyrnong, it’s fair to say Ascot Vale hasn’t smashed it in the food and booze department. You can get good brunch at No. 19 or sweet vegan treats at Mister Nice Guy’s Bakeshop, but smooth wine bars with atmosphere and a fireplace? Tricky.
“There’s a few other bars around,” says Simon. “But nothing doing good food plus high-end cocktails, plus craft beer plus wine. It’s something new for the neighbourhood.”
The drinks list is massive here, and it’s set to get even bigger. Simon and the crew are going to grow it to 200+ wines (an easy-drinking mix of local drops and European labels), plus 100 craft beers and a select cocktail range.
There’s definitely some interesting stuff on the back shelves: the famous BR4 whisky from Elements of Islay, hefty chianti from Italy’s Il Palazzo, Cabernet from Leconfield and Spanish Garnacha. Definitely not your usual stuff. If you need help decoding the wine list, just chat to the friendly guys behind the bar.
Generally, it’s best to just match your booze to the food. Award-winning chef Suren Rajasinghe runs the pass here, dishing up blackened Napoli-style pizzas, artisan charcuterie boards and a few lip-smacking entrees (the homemade hummus with herb pizza is crazy good). Suren worked as a pizza chef in Italy for 15 years, picking up a swag of awards along the way, so you know this stuff is good.
Our pick? Load up with a fresh Caprese salad, fries with sweet paprika, and a slow-cooked lamb pizza, topped with zingy chermoula relish, cherry tomatoes and caramelised onion.
There’s a tight cocktail menu, but The Vale goes down pretty well with a big glass of red (...and then, let’s face it, a few more glasses of red).
Welcome to the neighbourhood, boys.
Image credit: Jenna Fahey-White