It’s the golden rule of Melbourne hospitality: know your area. A stuffy wine bar might go gangbusters in the CBD or South Yarra, but down the Balaclava end of Chapel St, you need to scuff the edges up a bit.
Presenting XM4, a delightfully unpretentious wine, cheese and bagel bar. The sort of place you can swing by for a schmear on the way to work, or settle in for a serious late-night, wine-fuelled chinwag.
Let’s start with brekky. The doors open bright and early, serving piping hot Padre coffee to caffeine-starved Saints fans. There’s a morning brunch and bagel menu too (practically compulsory down here, whether you serve wine, beer or office supplies). Think no-fuss combos like thick-cut bacon, coz, av’ and house garlic mayo on a seeded sourdough bagel, or a New York Reuben (smoked pastrami, Dijon and seeded mustard, sauerkraut and a tongue of dill pickle).
In the afternoon, the menu switches to shared plates, with cheese and charcuterie boards dominating after dark. Owner Claire Lane sources all her produce fresh from the South Melbourne Market (there’s a big focus here on Aussie suppliers). Expect tapas-style Bruschetta Caprese with Bocconcini and chilli oil, or Spanish-style sardines on toast with roast red peppers and crumbly feta.
The cheese and charcuterie selection rotates regularly (depending on what’s looking good at the markets). Generally it’s just best to ask the friendly staff what’s good and go from there.
One last tip? Saganaki. Oh my giddy aunt, this thing is delicious. Fried golden, oozy out the sides, with a squeeze of lemon and some chopped parsley. Simple and sexy, like everything else at XM4.
Image credit: Michelle Jarni