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East End wine bar on course for expansion

Wine

Popular East End wine bar The Tasting Room is set to expand in the next few months, with plans for a larger bar area, more seating inside and out, and a new wine school.

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The Tasting Room was opened three years ago by the operators of East End Cellars, alongside the Cellars’ new shop on the southern side of Vardon Lane.

Proprietor Michael Andrewartha has now secured the 132sqm building next door, previously occupied by an architecture firm, which he says will give it a total area of 430sqm over the three shops.

“I signed the lease on the day they (the architects) moved out,” he says.

“I’ve always wanted it … with the success of this business, we’ve basically run out of room. On Friday nights, we’re turning people away.”

The wall between The Tasting Room and the newly acquired premises will be knocked out to create a larger bar area, with a service window opening onto Vardon Avenue, plus a new kitchen, toilets and office space.

It will initially be licensed for 120 people (up from the current 75), but it is hoped this can be extended to 160 when new liquor licensing laws come into effect next year.

“It’s a bit of a long-term plan for us,” Andrewartha says.

He says the new kitchen will enable The Tasting Room to expand its platter and sandwich menu to offer more function food and tapas-style options, but adds there is no intention to become a restaurant.

The Tasting Room will expand into the vacated premises at the left of the current bar. Photo: Tony Lewis

The Tasting Room will expand into the vacated premises at the left of the current bar. Photo: Tony Lewis

A key aspect of the expansion is his plan to open up a wine school, which will operate from Monday to Thursday before the bar opens, offering a full range of wine and wine-service courses aimed at everyone from “mums and dads” to people working in the hospitality industry, including aspiring sommeliers.

“There is a big gap in the market for properly organised, high-quality wine courses run by educated people,” Andrewartha says.

“We’ll also have master-classes with visiting winemakers from interstate and overseas.

“We do this already, but we have to close half the bar off. This [The Tasting Room] was always meant to be a room of education and tasting from day one, but our success was the demise of that because we’ve been too busy.”

The expanded space will have the same look and feel of the current bar, including polished concrete floors, a black ceiling with recycled cedar beams, and tables made from recycled river red gum (from Geoff Merrill’s vineyard).

Andrewartha anticipates it will be ready to open in about three or four months.

For Michael Andrewartha, The Tasting Room was the realisation of a long-held dream. Photo: Tony Lewis

For Michael Andrewartha, The Tasting Room was the realisation of a long-held dream. Photo: Tony Lewis

The timing is serendipitous, with this November marking the 20th anniversary of the opening of East End Cellars in its original location on Vardon Avenue, behind the former Universal Wine Bar. It was the first step in Andrewartha’s efforts to realise his dream of opening a one-stop bottle shop and wine bar offering a simple food menu.

“The dream came out of travelling through Italy and going to enotecas and walking into these cute little shops full of fantastic wine; little holes-in-the-wall where you could get your bottle of wine, buy your pasta, get your little espresso coffee, have a glass of wine at the front if you wanted to, a baguette, a sandwich …

“The one I really liked was on Lake Como … I fell in love with that shop.”

It was the State Government’s introduction of the small bar licence that enabled The Tasting Room to become a reality.

Now, Vardon Avenue and the surrounding area is thriving, with other success stories including the recently expanded Exchange coffee shop, New Orleans-inspired small bar Nola, and Mother Vine wine bar and restaurant (which Andrewartha also operates).

“It’s a great strip,” Andrewartha says. “It’s on fire and we’re quite lucky to have some really good operators.

“We’ve got a destination here and I think the more we have in the area, the better we’ll do.”

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