Acqua e Vino is Italian for “Water and Wine”. Imagine if the owners had used the English version of this for this bar’s name instead; who would go to a place with such a bland name? This goes to show that everything sounds fancier in Italian. It also shows that by using a foreign phrase that this posh yet mostly unpretentious wine bar and restaurant is trying to give itself an international image to make it stand out, and considering it is in the west side of Melbourne, you will be hard pressed to find another bar like this on this side of town.
As you walk up the stairs to get inside, you will see through some glass the back of the various drink bottles standing behind the bar, showing you and everyone else who has just arrived that there are many different drinks on offer here. Once you get up the stairs, you will see a cosy, moderately sized, and very European-looking bar filled with black couches, tables, a black chandelier with candles on it, a fireplace, red flowers, wine bottles above some padded seating areas, and a small stage for the band. The entrance to the back bar for private functions is also just next to the top of the stairs, so you will not need to even walk through the bar to get to the party you are going to. You can order your drink once you turn the corner from the top of the stairs to the bar, granting you immediate access to the several fancy “vinos” here, as well as the few “commoner” drinks available like Wild Turkey, Barcardi, and Carona.
Be warned though: the bartender who served me was a rude and obnoxious tool, reflecting that Acqua e Vino is mainly frequented by the yuppies of the west, hence the bartender’s self-righteous attitude. For all I know, he may be the bad apple among Acqua e Vino’s staff, but it would not surprise me if the other bartenders also believe their own hype for when they get to tell people they work at a posh wine bar the likes of those in the city or St Kilda.
Also note that the meals here are of the stiff upper-class variety, the ones numerous movies have made fun of by portraying them as outrageously expensive meals that are mostly empty plates with only a small amount of gourmet lettuce on it.
Once you have brought your drink, you can enjoy the venue for its mostly relaxed feel by listening to the band’s indie rock music (I could hear a bit of it from the street and they sounded okay, though I was not able to listen to them properly inside as they were not playing at the time) or the chill out music played on the stereo for when the band are not around. The crowd were mostly between their mid-20s and 30s, all wearing nice casual clothing, ranging from tight black dresses for the sophisticated-looking ladies reminiscent of the Sex & the City gals, to the jeans and black vests the “hipster” guys wore. There is also the nice view of Ballarat Street to look at if you get bored or conversation with your friends falters. Despite the elitist attitude of the aforementioned bartender, Acqua e Vino is a pretty relaxed place where you can catch up with your friends with imported wines you are yet to taste.
Originally published here at barsandnightclubs.com.au on Tuesday 22 March 2011