Born in 1914, Albert Tucker was a local painter, photographer and ceramist whose art was influenced considerably by the poverty he experienced and witnessed during the Great Depression. Tucker was a key figure in the development of Australian Modernism in Melbourne and, more generally, in the recognition of Australian art internationally. From the 1930s, Tucker’s creative output was increasingly moulded by the Surrealist movement. Take, for example, his 1937 rendering of Armadale’s King’s Arcade. Envisioned from a perspective originating at the railway station, Tucker painted the landscape while looking at the rear entrance to the arcade. The result was a masterful microcosmic representation of a still-relevant macrocosmic experience – urban alienation. For those unfamiliar with the work, a reproduction resides on the north entrance to Armadale Station, a reminder of the suburb’s rich artistic heritage. It is not surprising, then, that the area’s newest café and wine bar celebrates this local heritage via its inspiration and namesake, even its use of glossy green tiles on the façade of its heritage-listed Victorian building.
Appropriately located behind King’s Arcade at 17 Morey Street, Albert’s is an inviting café by day and a warm, romantic wine bar by night. It is the brainchild of trio Toby Koffman and siblings Doug Milledge and Alice Freer. Gracing the neighbourhood with years of local and international hospitality experience and joining the company of stalwarts Coin Laundry and Phillippa’s, as well as newly opened luxury Sydney-based butcher Victor Churchill, Albert’s is quickly becoming a local favourite. Chef Ruby Haupt oversees the daytime menu and creates an assortment of mouth-watering delights, including house-made granola with spiced poached pear and vanilla-maple yoghurt, the Ploughman’s Breakfast with smoked salmon and ricotta or prosciutto and goat’s cheese – eggs and toast are part of the dance, as well, of course – New York-style Reubens, smoked-salmon bagels with a pickled onion-and-herb schmear and house-made frittata. An assortment of in-house baked goods and coffee from Braeside roaster God’s Honest Truth are also available.
As the afternoon lazily progresses, Albert’s changes gears and the wine bar is re-invigorated and readied to receive its post-work and nightlife clientele. Regarding ways to decorate your planetary emerald-green marble tables, consider hummus with roasted walnuts and smoked paprika and/or smoked fish with chives and pickled onion, Cuca anchovies with salsa verde, fresh oysters topped with fennel-and-shallot mignonette, mozzarella di bufala with eggplant caponata, charcuterie plates and cheese plates. Currently, Milledge describes the wine bar food menu as “a bit of a taste of things to come”, with the menu due to expand in 2022. The same applies to the wine list, as well, in that it is very much a work in progress. As the saying goes, sometimes less is more. What the Albert’s wine list temporarily lacks in breadth and depth is more than compensated for by the “interest factor”. Progressive, cutting-edge new-world offerings hold their place alongside traditional favourites. This is exemplified by boutique Strathbogie Ranges winemaker Matt Froude and his Municipal Wines label. According to Milledge, Froude’s wines punch well above their weight. For those of you out there who imbibe by the slogan “red until dead”, try the tempranillo – approachable, bright and a touch savoury. If wine is not necessarily your go-to – or, more precisely, if an evening is simply incomplete without a cocktail or two – Albert’s also serves a selection of classic cocktails. Think martini, margarita, Manhattan and old fashioned. Whether or not Albert Tucker would have agreed is debatable, but a proper injection of quality food and drink has repeatedly and successfully held the shadow of urban alienation at bay for many a city dweller.
Try it for yourself. Albert’s is open from Tuesday to Thursday, 7am to 2pm, and Friday to Sunday, 7am to 10pm.