Neapoli Cafe Wine Bar is one of those hidden Melbourne treasures that, unless you know it’s there, you’ll never find it.
Melbourne’s made its name with this kind of paradox. The whole city’s full of little bars, cafés and shops that are hidden to the outsider. And as an outsider, it still puzzles me how businesses in Melbourne stay afloat.
Neapoli needn’t worry though. Hidden or not, this little gem is chockers all the time. Inside, it has that classic Melbourne charm that seems like it’s not trying to be styled when it is – or maybe it isn’t… I’m an outsider. What do I know?
The anachronistic look of the Neapoli is seamless though. Every table has its own little hurricane lamp hardwired into the mains. However, its food is modern, its menu clean and simple. The coffee is well-made and artfully rosetta’d and the service is friendly and professional.
We sampled the excellent reuben sandwich – lots of salted beef and delicious slaw – and the tasting plate – full of mozzarella, artichoke, grilled capsicum, and crisp polenta chips.
I do feel sorry for the wait staff though. The most popular seats are on the mezzanine up a flight of tricky stairs. Up here, the wrought iron railing ends in a giant bird cage big enough to fit a person.
We imagined this place being huge in the ‘20s, the air thick with tobacco smoke and a feathered lady entertaining the punters from the bars of the cage, the toot and ripple of prohibition-style clarinets and saxophones filling the room.
It’s not until we ask the manager about the railings and the beautiful two-storey window frontage that we discover this place was a multi-storey car park until a few years ago. The railings, the windows, the tables, the staircase – it was all designed and installed this century.
We’re gobsmacked. But it somehow makes us like the place all the more.
We have our friends Julia (a Sydney migrant) and her man James – a local brainbox – to thank for showing us this diamond in the alley, so thank you, guys!
Where’s your favourite hide-away cafe? Spill the beans in the comments below!