La Bella Cellar
With no obvious signage to speak of except for two tiny initials hovering overhead and one lonely cactus, it would be easy to walk past La Bella Cellar none the wiser. Those who do dare to venture inside are greeted with a small but mighty wine cellar that features predominantly Australian drops alongside varietals from Italy, Spain and France. Once you’ve ogled the shelves and maybe even selected a bottle (or two) to accompany you into the restaurant (a small corkage fee applies), venture through the clandestine door and into a speakeasy-style restaurant that has completely transformed the nook previously occupied by The Little Bar into a stunning Italian-inspired space that is guaranteed to have you dreaming of sojourns by the seaside. A cacti garden runs the length of the dining room that is dotted with no more than a handful of high- and low-tables with seating for 30 diners. The menu here has been crafted to accompany the drinks (rather than the other way around) to allow the flavours of the wine to shine. Start with a selection of cicchetti (small plates) that include natural oysters with champagne vinaigrette, crisp arancini stuffed with porcini mushroom and an entire section of the menu dedicated to cheese. Yes, you heard, eight different kinds of cheese to be exact, ranging from triple-cream brie from Adelaide Hills to Italian cave-aged Maffra Pyramid cheddar and bleu d’auvergne. Once you’ve had your fill of cheese (if that’s even a thing), there’s a scattering of perfectly crisp pizzas loaded with top-notch Italian toppings to munch. Behind the bar, head barman Aaron Howard is shaking up some seriously unique concoctions including The Vatican – a gin-based sip that features house-made honey rosemary syrup, green chartreuse and lemon and accompanied by a plume of smoked rosemary to complete the sensory experience, and the Mamma Mia Margarita (pineapple-and-jalepeno-infused tequila, agave and lime).