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Stairway to Great Food

May 21, 2015

Corner Gavan & Barnard Street, Bright

Opening hours: Thurs - Sun, 6pm - 11pm/ Closed Tues and Wed

Bike friendly / Dietary requirements friendly

Down thirteen steps you’ll find a place that somehow blends humble with hipster. It’s the place in town for boutique local wines and meals that rival Melbourne’s foody scene.

The name gives it away – you've got to go downstairs to stumble on this fantastic little bistro. Or, as my mum warned me, you've got to go upstairs after you've drunk and eaten a belly full.

And that’s not hard to do here.

There’s something about an underground eatery that ads a bit of theater to the whole dining out experience. As you make your way down and into this pretty intimate space, you know straight away you’re in for something special. Tunes are on vinyl, lighting is all moody, original brick walls stand exposed, and there’s a pretty cruisy vibe coming from front of house.

That chilled-out, but super professional mojo is thanks to co-owner Roy Merrington, who’s likely already one glass in by the time you arrive. A trained sommelier and former restaurateur in Melbourne, Roy knows his wines back-to-front. He’s gone to lengths to pull together a very local wine list because, as he’ll tell you, nearby Beechworth and its environs have pretty much the best wine in the country. And the moment it becomes available on the supermarket shelf, it’s removed from Thirteen Steps’ list.

Under Roy’s great guidance we ordered a Billy Button Barbera and some local craft ales, before checking out what the menu had to offer from other co-owners David and Imogen Danks. We sure did order well – from plates like spanner crab and coconut dumplings or pork spare ribs with David’s special BBQ sauce, to seared Aphrodite haloumi, soused onion, baby carrot, green beans, walnuts + pomegranate dressing. The kitchen was on figurative fire, to the point where we just had to keep going and give dessert a nudge. I won’t go into detail because I think the boys were pretty devastated not to go back a second night.

Instead, we’ll leave it to Roy to fill in the gaps (which, incidentally, was filmed as the rest of our crew diligently sat in front of freshly served desserts, silently willing us to wrap up)…