On the weekend, I said goodbye to The George Melbourne Wine Room as I know it. The doors closed on Saturday, but despite the fact that it will re-open with a new owner (and maybe the same name?), for me, it won’t be the same. That building has my blood, sweat and tears etched into it.
Fifteen years ago, I walked into The George on its opening night following its re-invention by the late Donlevy Fitzpatrick and Maurizio Terzini, and I knew then that this is where I wanted to be. By the end of the week, I was frantically washing glasses behind the bar, more glasses in one night than I had probably washed in a year.
Back then, Karen Martini was cooking out the front and, as the rookie, I was mesmerized by the action. I started as a 21 year old knowing very little about food and wine and it was here that I realised that food and wine was something I not only liked, but wanted to make my profession. There was no place like it and, perhaps, there hasn’t been since.
Donlevy’s big picture dreaming and Maurizio’s eagle eye for detail gave the George an incredible energy. Karen’s food taught me about simplicity and the importance of great produce. Chappy and Marcus taught me about wine and then there was Michael – like a brother in the trenches when it came to a relentlessly jam-packed bar and dining room – running the room with military precision.
It was at this auspicious place that I met Michael Trembath and Virginia Taylor, now my fellow business partners, and tasted my first Italian wines – Hofstätter Pinot Nero Barthenau Vigna San Urbano 1994 and Brancaia Il Blu 1994. I knew then that these wines were ‘different’ and I couldn’t wait to explore the rest. I’m still exploring the rest today and that’s the wonderful thing about Italian wine, you can explore forever.
And then I got married there as well. Thanks for the memories George.