Embla was recently crowned Time Out Melbourne’s Best Restaurant in their 2016 Food Awards.
So, how does a wine bar beat out all the brilliant places to dine in Melbourne for the coveted Best Restaurant title? We chatted to Embla’s Christian McCabe to find out.
How did you come up with the concept for Embla?
Embla is not really a ‘concept’ so much as an expression of who we [the owners] are as a group of friends. We all happen to love food and slightly weird wine, so we kind of just make it up as we go along. Good people join us along the way and it all works out pretty well in the end!
What does winning Time Out’s Best Restaurant for 2016 mean to you?
We’ll have no trouble getting our recommended 10,000 steps per day! But also it means lots of new people will come and give us a try, and a few of them will join our large family of long time regulars that we’ve picked up over the years. Our regulars are mostly now friends, we like them and they like us back, and that makes what we do really worthwhile.
What is your chef’s background?
Dave Verhaul is the chef and he was also the chef at my old restaurant, Matterhorn in New Zealand. He’s worked in some great kitchens including Marcus Wareing’s in London and Brent Savage’s in Sydney.
How are the dishes devised?
It is ingredient driven, and therefore we work with what’s in season. It’s an iterative process but ultimately about creating layers, and in our case a lot of texture too, while still keeping it pure and simple
Where do you source your produce from? What things are important to you when choosing ingredients?
Mostly from Victoria, we want things that taste great already so we don’t need to manipulate them as much!
How do you select your wine list?
A lot of research and tastings! We are looking for something that’s a unique expression of where it came from, rather than what someone did to it. We’re not looking for crowd pleasers, just things that are at their peak and haven’t been overworked.
What are your tips for pairing food and alcohol?
Don’t take it too seriously, the only reason you should sit down to eat and drink is to socialise. Matching acid and texture/palate weight are basically all that matters, the rest is detail to be left up to very serious sommeliers at fancy restaurants.
So, getting the best photo, or the perfect fit between wine and component, these are just distractions to what should be a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family.
What are the most popular meals and drinks on your menu?
We sell a lot of wine by the glass, and since we have quite an adventurous offering we think this reflects a very adventurous and open minded clientele, which is great to see.
A wine bar is a great place to try new things that you wouldn’t otherwise get the chance to, it needn’t be weird or challenging, just something other than what you’d normally drink.
We also sell a lot of roast chicken [pictured]!
What is your favourite dish and drink?
For me personally the best dish is our snapper carpaccio which is just raw snapper with a fermented pepper paste, simple, clean and tasty. I try to drink as many different things as possible, as this is a large part of my job (poor me!), but my favourite things are really mineral whites from places like Chablis or the Loire Valley in France.
What’s next for Embla?
Deboning chickens and trying to live up to the hype, without changing what we set out to be – an inner city local that people can make part of their everyday. We don’t believe life should be lived through a series of special occasions, the daily ritual should be celebrated too.
Image source: https://www.timeout.com/