Pairing an intimate wine bar on the ground floor and a sharing plate-friendly bistro of Italian delicacies upstairs, Ombra Salumi Bar has something for everyone.
Location: 76 Bourke St, Melbourne, VIC 3000 Ph: (03) 9639 1927
At first glance, you might miss Ombra Salumi Bar. After all, it has little of the glamour and buzz of its big brother, Grossi Florentino next door.
Instead, this comparatively unassuming, but definitely welcoming, Wine and Salumi Bar has a laid-back charm all of its own.
Of course, modest though the eatery may be, it comes with a stellar pedigree. Ombra Salumi Bar doesn’t just sit beside the much-lauded Italian restaurant Grossi Florentino – but shares its DNA. In fact, it’s very much part of the family. Only this is the branch devoted to cured meats, cicchetti and the arts of salting, smoking, fermenting, pickling and all the wonders of food preservation.
And as any good Italian will tell you, you can’t enjoy nibbles and small plates such as these without a glass in your hand. Hence Ombra’s expansive drinks list, including Digestivi and Grappa.
All of this results in the kind of bar where you pop in for a quick post-work wine and end up grazing your way through an entire meal.
What a pleasant way to spend an evening.
Ombra Salumi Bar is a venue of 2 halves.
Downstairs is surprisingly intimate and appealingly moody. Subdued lighting, concrete floors and the mellow tones of wood add to the ambience. Patrons either perch on stool bars at high plank tables jutting from the wall, or cluster around a number of small, circular tables.
There’s a bar towards the back and glimpses of a bright, busy kitchen.
The vibe is very much Wine Bar.
In contrast, if you take the staircase up to the room above, you’ll find more of a Bistro set up. The long, slim room is half-tiled and the table settings favour couples and fours. The exception is a larger table under a picture window looking out over the Bourke Street below.
On the wall running beside the stairs there is a huge blown-up photo of an Italian street scene in sepia-tones. It’s a striking piece of art in a room of mottled, bone whites.
Upstairs is clearly more of a dining space than downstairs, but both levels have the same simple, yet welcoming atmosphere.
Although a large part of the menu consists of superior drink-friendly nibbles, please don’t think that Ombra is simply tricked-up charcuterie boards. Far from it.
Yes. There is the excellent Salumi, but there is also an array of Cicchetti E Piatti, as well as thin, fragrant Pizzas.
We consider going with the Sharing Menu ($65 pp), having found it both delicious and generous on a previous visit. However, this time, we opt to pick and dip from the A La Carte.
The Chicken Liver & Pork Pate with Venetian Onions ($20) is heady and smooth, but needs more than one crunchy Cracker to do it justice. That said, we wolf it down between sips of Negroni.
From there, we swerve into the Salumi section with a plate of pink, fat dimpled Mortadella ($14). Alongside we have the Eggplant Fritte with Smoked Aioli ($20). Both are all too easy to eat.
We venture a touch out of our comfort zone with the Sardine in Saor, Saffron, Onion, Pine Nut & Sultana ($27). It’s a bold plate of sweet, sharp and sour flavours, wearing its Sicilian influence with pride.
Whilst the Risotto Pilota with Sausage & Leek ($28) and the Pollo Arrosto – Roast Chicken, Shallot & Radicchio ($38) both read well, we settle on a couple of Pizzas.
We’re big fans of a fiery Pizza and the Diavola ($27) doesn’t disappoint. It’s a winning combination of Calabrese, Chilli, Tomato & Olives. If you want even more punch, you can add the housemade Nduja for another $8, but we pass. Our second choice is the Patate e Pancetta, Fior Di Latte & Rosemary ($28) – its classic toppings a marriage made in culinary heaven.
Check out our guide to the Best Pizza Places in Melbourne right here.
On this occasion, we skip Dessert, but had we gone for it, the Torta Duchesse – Chocolate & Hazelnut Torte ($16) wouldn’t have stood a chance.
As you may know by now, Eatability loves kicking off the evening with a Cocktail. Our tipples on this particular evening are a pair of classics – a Negroni ($20) and a Margarita ($20).
Following that, my partner enjoys a glass of the very likeable 2018 Foster ‘Garden Hearthly Delights’ ‘Sangiovese Rose’, Heathcote Victoria ($13/17/52) and I quaff a Gin.
Although Ombra Salumi Bar doesn’t have the scale and pizzaz of its famed neighbour, Grossi Florentino, it’s in no way the poor cousin.
This snug little eatery has a charm all of its own with an eclectic menu of beautifully prepared nibbles, small plates and more. Plus, it has an engaging drinks list with lots of familiar favourites, along with a few unexpected finds.
Pop in for a glass of wine and let your appetite lead you on a delicious Italian adventure.