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Where Else? (a night off at Sala Wine Lounge)

Some might say that I would be a tad biased in regards to the following #venue and they would be right but that aside as always my blogs are more about a journey. A story to lose yourself in and for a fraction of a moment, forget about your worries and let me take you into a different world.

Unbelievably, it is a rare occasion that one actually gets to go out to the very venue they work at and when they do it becomes a quite surreal experience. Being on the other side of the #bar is a special moment and allows a certain appreciation of the nuances and work that goes into creating the atmosphere and experience you usually take for granted.

One of the strangest things about this is the only decent clothes I own to go out in are my work clothes and that in itself speaks volumes about not only my wardrobe but the quality of the venue I am about to enter. So with dress pants, collared shirt and vest donned I park up and take a short walk down #Victoria street toward the #Marlston end of town. You would be forgiven for walking past #Sala not knowing what treasures lie in wait. The building screams #heritage, built from old Donnybrook stone, constructed in 1903 and painted plain white. Two well appointed heavy wood doors and dark tinted windows with bars conceal the delight waiting inside. Feeling slightly uncomfortable as a patron I have to stop myself from heading behind the bar to pour myself a beer or to help myself to menus or to head straight into the kitchen. I’ll get back to the beer and food momentarily.

#Sala is an escape, designed reminiscent of the American #prohibition era, an escape from your everyday life. Walk through those doors and you will be greeted with wood and exposed brick and a polished concrete bar that takes front and centre, comfortable blanquettes and real #chesterfield lounges. Head upstairs and you know this is a place you’re going to spend most of the evening at. A small private bar, wing-back chairs and the realization that real effort has been put into preserving the heritage of the building while #modern touches keep it relevant and supremely comfortable. This is place to meet up with friends and family and enjoy the experience a small bar should rightly offer.

I order a pint of Red Ale and very quickly chase it down with another. One of the attractions here is the ever changing product. The three #beer taps are home to a rolling list of local craft beer and each week you will find something unique and different pouring. The #wine list is ever changing hosting a plethora of international and Australian vintages sure to please even the most discerning lover of liquid grape. So with pint in hand I scan the #menu. It is without a doubt a phenomenon that no matter how long you may have worked in a venue and how much you know the menu off by heart, when it comes to ordering food I just need to pretend like I don’t know what I want. Staggered service means you can enjoy each dish within its own right. So now sitting comfortably on the lounge, hidden away from the public in a nook designed for introverts such as myself, I order some deliciously mouth-watering fare and a glass of Tempranillo to accompany.

Maggie Beer has nothing on Sala’s in-house made Chicken #Pate. Infused with onion, butter, thyme and served with thin slices of crusty baguette this is a perfect starter. Super smooth and creamy and full of flavour every bite has me wishing I had a plate of spicy salami and cheese (which of course you can order). In my mind there is nothing more convenient than putting pieces of meat on a stick. The humble skewer is obviously designed to satiate the inner caveman and as I rarely feel the need to use a knife and fork the Chicken Skewers here suit me just fine. Marinated in Korean Chilli and cooked to perfection on a Brazilian charcoal grill, the chicken is moist and tender and packs a slight punch. Just enough to wake up the tastebuds and the grin etched across my face as I tear pieces of delectable meat from the skewer with my gnashers, is a sign that although I have devolved into an animal state the glass of wine makes me seem more elegant than I truly am. Paella is next and is proof of two things... Firstly I am a guts and tackling a dish designed to share between 2-4 people requires a special ability and an extra stomach. Secondly the chefs here have a real passion for imparting ridiculous amounts of flavour into each dish and the combination of the saffron rice, pork belly, chorizo, capsicum, mussels and onion with that perfect Paella crust is just NOM NOM NOM. Ran out of adjectives!

While I finish the last few mouthfuls of rice and take in the relaxing casual atmosphere, almost homely sitting on a lounge with a full belly and funky Electro-swing filling the space, I decide to finish my evening on a Gangsters Loot, a cocktail of fresh lime, tequila (my weakness), rum and cointreau with a hint of chilli. Zingy and fresh and comes with a warning not to leave it sitting for too long, cause it only gets hotter, unless you like a bit of bite that is.

Upon leaving I realize I have managed to enjoy a night out without the feeling that I should be working instead of enjoying myself and that comes down to the quality. Not only in the food and drink but the casual friendliness of the staff, the relaxing vibe set by the music and the amazing decor and while the venue does tend to fill up with revellers on a weekend, everyone has forgotten momentarily about the world outside and just for a few hours have been transported to a carefree moment in time where friends can gather with good food and drink and it just seems right.

My journey to the otherside of the bar is over (for now) and I can’t wait for the next time I’m in need of escape and I find myself once again being hosted by the 2017 #SmallBar of the Year, Sala Wine Lounge and Kitchen.

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