When Louis Couttoupes opened his 11th ward-inspired restaurant in Kingston, Onzieme, he had more up his sleeve.
The corner block at Kennedy and Eyre streets not only has a lot of sunny glass fronting onto the street, but also an extra underground.
And that’s a concrete basement that was previously used for storage (the site used to be a bank when interest rates were 14 percent, according to some of the pamphlets Louis and his team swept off the floor that are, for the record , from the 80s).
With some considered paint choices (cherry red for the door and bar), Louis and his team turned it into a warm and inviting wine bar, 11e Cave.
But while Onzieme has done a great deal, licensing issues have kept 11e Cave in its own little cage. That is, until last Friday, when the paperwork arrived. Finally! Louis opened the bright red door around 6pm on a Saturday night, only to find a line of 15 people outside waiting to get in (there were two of us).
Describing the space as warm, cheeky, intimate, and playful, you can expect moody Melbourne vibes, a great wine and cocktail list, and delicious snacks from the upstairs kitchen.
Accessed from Eyre Street, an unassuming staircase takes you to a cozy space with room for 30 people in a pinch. Dim lighting, exposed ceiling pipes, concrete flooring, and plastered walls create a sense of stripped-back intimacy.
Mirrors, murals, and music warm the concrete space lit only by candles and vintage lanterns. And keep an eye out for super quirky works by Art Tui Bussenschutt (he’s only 12!) and magical little doodles on the wall courtesy of Louis’ girlfriend. Honestly, anything goes.
But things are more serious when it comes to the wine list and snacks.
Louis has expanded the cheese and charcuterie offerings and has its own cheese expert, Steph Leijens, on hand to help you choose.
There are oysters from the River Clyde, Under Bakery sourdough, duck liver pâté and some of Onzieme’s now famous potato galettes. Louis estimates that he produces 50 kilos of potatoes a week providing this treat for the crowd upstairs in the restaurant itself.
Their sommelier and manager, Tom Blakely, has put together a sizable list of favorite and niche wines, with around 10 available by the glass. There is also a “Unicorn” list of solitary and unique bottles saved over the years and available for the more experimental drinker.
Meanwhile, bartender Brett Nebauer, fresh from Europe where he worked at the world’s top 20 Care/of bars in Sweden, is interested in the classic singles and sticks to Louis’s low-waste mantra.
“We all try to use kitchen waste anywhere we can, so when we juice lemons and limes, we keep the peels and make a bitter lemon syrup. We get our figs from Gollion Farm, and when Vincent gives us a few seconds, Brett infuses figs and fig leaves into the gin vodkas and then makes a fig leaf martini.
“I used to save the cherry pits and ice cream sinkers because they give that marzipan flavor, but now I can’t get them because Brett already used them to make the Amaretto sinker. It’s been so much fun trying out all of his creations!”
And once you walk through that cherry red door and down the stairs, you can try them too.
Where: Corner Kennedy and Eyre St, the little red door
Open: Tuesday – Saturday 6pm+
Contact: 0424 894 763